For the third time since last November, I had the privilege of visiting Calabar (a historic Nigerian city in the southeastern part of the country, ministry area of missionary great Mary Slessor) towards the end of 2010. The ordination of a pastor friend was the premise for this particular trip. Eight pastors [pictured below] joined me for the ceremony on Sunday morning, and the church recorded a new attendance high; there was a wonderful spirit among the ministers, members, visitors, and the candidate’s family. Another such service in mid-December for two pastors in Abuja capped off a wonderful year in which several men have started new churches and ministries.
Other new beginnings have been celebrated as our church has rejoiced in the birth of eleven babies in the last four months alone! These blessed arrivals command much attention from our ministry: our staff makes every effort possible to be at the hospital for the birth or at least before the mother returns home, our ladies fellowship visits the mother with a gift, I normally conduct a naming ceremony within seven days, and we set a date for some of the families to participate together in a baby dedication service at the church. Baby dedication [Brian's pictured from 3 years ago] always sees an increase in visitors as many relatives, neighbors, and friends are invited; usually there is a sweet time of fellowship with testimonies and refreshments at the close of these services.
The month of December gave our family some time to “catch our breath.” Since arriving in Nigeria from furlough on the Saturday before Easter, we have located a suitable house, secured a lease, and moved all our belongings; our church has hosted four major conferences in addition to my “regular” duties and travels as pastor and missionary, and we’ve conducted two seminary semesters in a row while I’ve also taught three courses in the Bible institute. From December 10th until January 10th our semester and institute were put on break, and I celebrated! Our family took advantage of a holiday deal in an Abuja hotel and filled four days with games for our children, family time, good food, and relaxation. Friends and relatives in the U.S. gave our children a great Christmas by sending lots of presents by postal mail [our children pictured with some of their "stash"]. Yet, our favorite gift was one purchased by a Nigerian family who was a neighbor to us in our previous location; they bought a full-month membership for us to join a family club where our children could play basketball, soccer, water games, tennis, and ping-pong. We are now refreshed and ready for a year where we hope to see the graduation of several students, the beginning work on a church auditorium, and a number of new church plants.