by Dave and Mary Lou
Greetings to you all! As we anticipate 2014 we thought we would give you a brief review of our lives over the past 365 days. 2013 was packed full of change for us:
- January – Mary Lou ended eight years of work with Peace and Conflict Studies Program at Conrad Grebel University College. Gracious send-off by colleagues made the departure tough but possible.
- January – Dave completed one more round of travel to and from Nigeria as an interim country representative for Mennonite Central Committee. He was glad to see the four months of back and forth between Ontario and Plateau State coming to an end.
- January – Mary Lou’s maternal grandfather passed away after a full life of 103 years! It was wonderful to be able to celebrate his long life with many aunts, uncles, and cousins who came for the funeral, some of whom we had not seen for a while. Grandpa Faw was a prolific writer and poet, capturing family experiences and mid-20th century rural life south-western Ontario for posterity.
- February. A few weeks of packing up at 118 Strange Street and saying good-bye including making sure we were around to celebrate the February birthdays in our family. Kara ably continues on in the house, arranging things to make it her own space.
- February – On our way to Nigeria we spent a quiet week+ in England as a way of marking the change as a couple from Kitchener-Waterloo to Jos. Renting a car we traveled to Canterbury in the east and then to Gloucester in the west. Our purpose was to explore cathedrals that offered daily worship and evening vespers. We were not disappointed and Mary Lou particularly found this a time of meaningful reflection as transition.
- March – Dave continues on as representative for MCC, developing relationships with old and new partners, learning about their work, figuring out MCC’s reporting systems (Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation), making plans for an intern to arrive in May and doing the 101 things one does as an administrator!
- March – Mary Lou begins teaching at Lawna Apostolic Theological Seminary with a course entitled, The Art and Soul of Peacebuilding (Moral Imagination.) There were five students in this class, part of the small but unique Conflict Management and Peace Studies Program at this small Pentecostal seminary. It was easy to find the text for the course since John Paul Lederach wrote the book.
- May – Dave and Matthew (Business Mgr for MCC Nigeria) traveled to meet the Mennonite Church Nigeria leadership in southern Nigeria (Uyo).
- May – MCC Representatives gather bi-annually to discuss program and meet with the Area Director for Central and West Africa. We traveled to Togo – a central point for the West Africa contingent of leadership from Burkina Faso, Chad, and Nigeria. Prior to the meetings, we decided to “see” Lagos – an important experience but one we probably won’t repeat.
- Following the meetings, we were able to spend a couple of days on the beach in Lome, Togo.
- June – Mary Lou taught two – two-week intensive peace studies courses to the Lawna summer session. One course was entitled, “Women, Traumatized Societies and Peacebuilding” a bit of a mouthful content-wise. A powerful experience of those weeks included the opportunity to have the whole student body at the school meet two amazing women peacebuilders from Jos who are also the leaders in partner organizations of MCC – Amina and Margaret. It is not often that Muslim and Christian people are welcomed to present together in a Christian seminary.
- June – After a rigourous selection process, we were able to hire Mugu as MCC Nigeria’s Peace Coordinator. Mugu recently graduated with a Masters degree in Conflict Management and Peace Studies from the University of Jos. His personal experiences of the region’s conflicts and his education make him a valuable contributor to our team.
- July – We returned to Ontario for the beginning of six weeks of travel. Our first trip was to Akron, PA MCC’s headquarters where we spent 10 days orienting ourselves to the current inner workings of MCC. It was great to meet others who were heading out into leadership assignments. Considering developments, we especially think of those who run programs in the Middle East – Jordan and Iraq, and Lebanon and Syria.
- July-August – In between our travels, we made sure that we spent time with each of our three daughters in their various contexts. Interestingly, the day we had planned for our whole family outing, ended up being a work day — a storm knocked down several branches of a big tree in Aleda and Ryan’s front yard and a couple trees in the back. So, family bonding occurred over chain saws, food preps and hauling away the brush. We were grateful to be around to participate. Our choice to work abroad, means that these spontaneous occasions for mutual aid cannot happen often.
- August – A quick trip west to Colorado gave us an opportunity to enjoy the Rocky Mountains but more importantly the fellowship of our second family. These were folks who served during the Don and Naomi Unger era with MCC in Nigeria 20+ years ago most of whom came to our daughters’ weddings in 2011. Gathering with us were many from the Paul and Susie Ford era. Prior to the reunion, Dave traveled around Plateau State with Gopar Tapkida a Nigerian friend and MCC colleague (who was completing his work as MCC’s Peace Coordinator for CWARM and heading off with Monica his wife to be the MCC Representatives in Zimbabwe) to visit several of the places where MCC workers lived and worked. Surprisingly they were able to meet up with several people who remembered workers from more than 20 years ago. The resulting hour-plus-long video represents a retrospective of the impact of MCC service that is compelling.
- August – Returning to Nigeria in mid-August left us with barely a week for Dave and our Nigerian team to make the final preparations for our first group of service workers – 2 SALT’ers (Canadian and American) and 1 YAMEN!er (Chinese.) Monika, Tessa, and Gina (Li Ying) have proven to be resilient members of our team. Monika and Tessa are nurses working at Faith Alive Hospital and Gina works with the women’s organization, Home Makers.
- August – Long-time MCC Nigeria worker, Athanasius, retired after 30 years and we celebrated his contributions!
- September – Mary Lou returned to teaching at Lawna – this time two foundational courses, “Fundamentals of Peacebuilding” and “Analysis and Understanding Conflict” this time to four full-time students in each class. The group was small, but there are some remarkable young people in these groups that make teaching meaningful.
- October – …was one of the busiest months yet. The month began with an MCC sponsored workshop, “Reflecting on Peace Practice,” with 25 peace practitioners. Gopar Tapkida one of, if not the, key initiators of peacebuilding work in Plateau State since the crisis in 2001 was the facilitator. It was an opportunity for deeper community building among folks trained over the years through MCC support by the African Peacebuilding Institute in southern Africa or by the West Africa Peacebuilding Institute in Accra, Ghana. Mary Lou helped with the facilitation as well.
- October – Immediately following the workshop, MCC Nigeria hosted a crew of people from MCC headquarters in Akron, PA and Winnipeg, MB as well as two leaders from the Mennonite Churches in southern Nigeria. A busy and full time, but the opportunity to connect with MCC’s amazing partners was welcomed by everyone.
- October – Mary Lou began a new teaching assignment – this time at St. Augustine’s Major Seminary (Catholic). 43 priests-in-training and four women novices fill the class and make the teaching dynamic quite different from the lower key approach at the Pentecostal seminary. The course is a basic exposure course in peace and conflict studies required of all university students.
- October – Travel again for CWARM meetings – this time held in Kigali, Rwanda. Kigali provides a stark contrast to much of the rest of Africa. However, the history of the genocide, tidied up off the streets, still seems to buzz beneath the surface. A visit to two of the genocide memorials brought home the long-term work that peacebuilding is, especially after the loss of about 10% of the population in 1994.
- November – The cycle of program planning and reporting began for Dave with partners. He is excited about several of the proposed projects partners have drafted. We are also looking forward to another team of SALT’ers/YAMEN!ers (we call them YALT’ers) in 2014 as well as some short-term workers.
- December – The end of the teaching term at Lawna and the Christmas break at St. Augustine’s provided us with a space of time to go for an 8-day vacation on the beaches of Ghana. A friend had recommended a great place where we were able to enjoy the sun and waves, to read and reflect and take photos.
- December – Mid-December provided us a chance to go on a retreat with our full contingent of MCC Service Workers, National Staff and their families – 24 in all! It was a great time of community building at Saminaka Resort – about an hour north-west of Jos.
- December – The Christmas season is much more of a religious and family/friends holiday. It is a time to worship, and then visit family and friends, to share food with visitors and neighbours. So far, it has passed peacefully – something not to be taken for granted.
- While we do not know for sure what 2014 will hold, we anticipate:
- the arrival of a retired university professor and his wife who is a writer. Ian will teach at the COCIN Gindiri Theological College and we look forward to Debra’s help with writing workshops with partners.
- the arrival of a young man, Mark, to volunteer for a few months further developing an electronic tracking system with our main peacebuilding partner.
- Local Government Elections to be held at the end of January. We are praying for peace as elections always provide opportunities for the simmering conflicts to erupt into violence.
- Continued consultations with Dr. Reina Neufeldt of Conrad Grebel University College on a project to deepen the practice of peacebuilders in Plateau State
- An MCC Nigeria Program Review
- Farewell in July to our current team of one-year volunteers followed in August by the arrival of a new group
We look forward to catching up with many of you when we return for a quick visit to Ontario in July/August.
May your year be filled with shalom…
….Mary Lou & Dave