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December 2023 Newsletter

Dear Friends and Family,

Once again, we thank God for being able to share a moment together. As we approach the end of a long and difficult year, we remain very aware of the vital role you play in our lives, and appreciate your loving kindness.

I pray you can continue to know of the importance of your every effort in Christ, and that you can have joy and satisfaction in that service.

My brother Philip shared a video as he and his wife made their way back to Kansas City after a long Thanksgiving weekend with family. As far as my eye could see, there was a bumper to bumper line of cars with folks making a similar journey. All seemed intent on waiting till late Sunday afternoon to make a long trek back home. The sight touched me as I was shown how much effort people made to be able to connect with friends and family.

It also reminded me of the efforts made by many of you to see that a growing group of children here could have a family and a place to belong to. Children who were abandoned on the road side, children who were lovingly handed over because no other resource was available, children who had no hope of a future or even life itself; all came to form a little community called family.

You have been there in various ways, on this long and winding journey. You helped give them a place to belong, a sense of identity, a hope for a future. We shared our lives and our name with many of them, but you were a partner in sharing the glue that helped bind us together. Thank you eternally for that. Your reward has been promised and assured.

I have tried to keep certain traditions alive, as it does help families to have certainties and things to look forward to. They seem strange to our neighbors, but it gives us an opportunity to teach. One of three major events on the calendar is Thanksgiving Day. Much of the world has no such day, and it provides me a chance to talk about how it got started and the history of the day. But most importantly, it gives us a chance to rejoice in being thankful. For those of us who have been given so much, it's vital to learn the grace of being humble and grateful. In a world focused on achievement and self sufficiency this is not always an easy lesson to learn. But for those of us on the bottom, who look up to others for everything, it is a lesson reinforced with every gift given to us.

This thanksgiving feast was not as varied as last year’s record breaker, but it was enjoyed by many none the less. We had gallons and gallons of gumbo over a small mountain of rice as the main, with traditional soup and garri also, washed down with 25 gallons of sweet southern tea. To me the joy was to see hungry folks being fed and the two days spent on getting such a meal on the table. We boys took over the cooking this year, and the hours and hours spent pealing potatoes and carrots and slicing onions and tomatoes and shelling peas and beans wore us out but made us happy all the same. Each feast makes me more grateful for the loving women I had in my life, and for their love that made such feasts possible in years of now blessed memory. And that is why we keep trying to make new memories for the young ones coming up.

Nkiru and I also had our own unusual celebration with two other missionary families and a friend from Texas, a real traditional feast with turkey and trimmings. Seated at the table was a collective experience in this country of almost 100 years. We missionaries lamented that to our knowledge, we remain among the last American ones on station for hundreds of miles in every direction. Our first thanksgiving here there were 7 families from one Bible college alone. We reflected on these changes, while celebrating the meal together.

There remains much to be thankful for. Kenneth, Hope and Grace were the 24th, 25th and 26th persons to be baptized and added to the church since our return earlier this year. This harvest comes after years of sowing seeds and now God is giving increase. This gives me joy and encouragement. Pray that more souls will see their need for Jesus.

Our Sunday gatherings continue to be blessed with more first time visitors, so much so that some have to stand outside our humble make shift tent. So we have finalized plans to tear down the old and come up with a new and longer structure, hopefully that will accommodate more folks.

We also had four weddings to help host and facilitate over this period. James and Cynthia were married at the court, as well as three other young couples. Marriage ceremonies and traditions are such a huge problem for many young people. The costs and demands of tradition cause most young people just to start living together, which gives Nkiru a good starting point for evangelizing. When a young lady comes for help, often along with a small child or two, Nkiru asks “ What about your husband?”. From there she preaches about the need for Christ to be first in all we do, especially in the case of marriage. She has two or three wedding dresses that keep being a blessing to others, the kitchen keeps churning out celebratory feasts of chicken and rice, and the folks at the court count us as friends. Thank you for helping us help others put things right in their lives, and commit to following Christ in all they do.

We still have more wedding stuff to do. Dr. Innocent, our son who is serving in Jamaica is on his way home to have a Christmas wedding. He is to marry a childhood friend, having courted and proposed over email. James and Cynthia still have the traditional wedding in her village and a “white” wedding with family and friends here. Some of our kids are coming home for Christmas and the weddings, some we have not seen for quite a while. Joshua is moving back to be a part of our workforce here, leaving banking and 5 hour daily commutes in Lagos behind. So a lot to look forward to.

We were able to celebrate the birth of Ani and Ayo’s son on the 1st of December. He was delivered safely by C section, and both mother and child are doing well. Master Mikel is now the 21st grandchild, and welcomed into the growing clan. This could not have been possible without your help.

I mentioned in my last letter how difficult things have become for the vast majority of folks. I could quote a lot of figures about inflation and unemployment and extreme poverty. But that doesn’t put a human face to the problems many face each day. One of our kids asked for help for a teacher who fainted in class because she had not eaten for a couple of days. Folks come from morning to late to our gate, asking for the little rice and beans we are able to share. Or help with medicine for a sick child, or help on rent after being kicked out on the street. The list seems endless, as is the problem of poverty. We pray for wisdom to handle each case with grace, knowing too well we all need grace daily. We try not to fall into traps of becoming cynical and uncaring. We want to not only open our homes but our hearts. We don’t want to give grudgingly, but to try to give with the dignity each case deserves. I fight the urge to stand in judgement on how worthy each person is to receive help. I question the role we are playing. And then I see the deep face of hunger on a thin child, and know it is not for me to be critical in judgement, but rather just share the love of Jesus to those who have no other hope. Thank you for being a part of that answered hope.

We continue to walk carefully and prayerfully. My wife’s sister’s compound was robbed about 2 am this morning. Though they broke her screen and tried to force entry to her apartment, the iron bars everyone has on their windows held the robbers out until an alarm could be sounded and the robbers jumped back over the wall. Four young girls have been kidnapped and murdered in our area for the sale of body parts. So much wickedness in the world, and the love of many has grown cold.

Thankfully yours has not. You continue to show a lost and dying world that there is a better way. You impact daily those who would have died without your help. Thank you for loving us too much.

Let me end on a happy note. Our brother Philip and wife Myra’s youngest daughter Madeline graduated from Mississippi State yesterday. She and her husband Levi will soon move to Florence, Alabama to begin serving as houseparents at the Christian children’s home there. We wish them every blessing as they take up this challenging service. She posted that she really did not want to go to Starkville at first, now she finds it very hard to leave. Isn’t it amazing how that God can take us from where we did not want to be to where He wants to take us to serve, blessing us along the way?

Folks, thanks once more. Merry Christmas to all. Continue to pray for us, especially as we consider the opportunity to serve the needs of a Christian High School. We don’t want to be where He does not want us to be doing what he does not want us to do.

We love you each and every one,

Cliff, Nkiru and family

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