Patton Taylor's Nigeria Update
How the world has changed since I last sent out a Nigeria update letter at the end of my last trip back in November!
You will remember that I had then come to the end of my initial 3-year commitment but was planning a “second missionary journey”. The plan was to continue visiting Nigeria for so long as health and stamina would permit - but now only once a year – and focussing on particular projects which would consolidate my earlier work. I had flights booked for the middle of April and even as late as mid-March it seemed as if this might still be feasible. I then had thought of November instead – but it is increasingly clear that this will also be impossible (it is not unlikely that the epidemic will be at its height in Nigeria at that time). I had already pencilled in dates for January 2021 (when I had been invited to partake in a particular event) – but as the situation develops I now realise that my “second missionary journey” is unlikely to happen even then or anytime soon. However, I have not been idle. I keep close contact by email and social media with the Colleges and with many individual staff-members, students and others whom I support and mentor. I have been working already on textbooks for use in Nigeria – and over the coming months I plan to explore what might be done in terms of online or other forms of distant teaching in the future.
Although the number of known cases of Covid19 in Nigeria is still relatively small, Nigeria like ourselves is largely under lockdown. The Colleges have been required to close (without completing the academic year). The lockdown conditions which confine people to their homes are particularly harsh in the Nigerian context, both in rural and in dense urban environments. Many families live from day to day, depending on daily-paid work, on petty trading in the market place, on or other forms of self-employment. And if they are not allowed to go out to work today then there is no money tomorrow - for food, essential medicine, clean water, or other basics (many of which may have doubled in price). Even those who have regular jobs are finding that their employers have no money to pay wages. Even for the Colleges, classes are cancelled, students have no money to pay fees, and so the staff had been paid nothing since February until Mission Africa was able to intervene with an emergency grant to give some respite.
The students and others who correspond with me put a brave face on it. They speak genuinely of their faith that God will provide. They share what little food they have with others who have even less (which is a real challenge to me). But often they speak of hunger. Some feel they know me well enough to ask for support. Others are slow to ask but I try my best to discern where there is need. I have sent help to as many as I can. I work on the principle that because I can’t help everyone is not a reason for helping no one. And this is only the beginning. What will it be like when the pandemic really strikes Nigeria with full force? – when even the cost of clean water and/or paracetamol for a sick child will be beyond the means of many families.
Lockdown has been easy enough for me personally. I keep busy at home and have been going out (from home) for a long walk every day to maintain fitness. This is what has lead me to respond to the ‘2.6 challenge’ by undertaking a personal 260-mile walkathon during lockdown, to raise funds for the Mission Africa Coronavirus Emergency Appeal (from which I will then be able to draw funds to help those of my contacts who are experiencing the greatest hardship). I have been covering 40 miles or so a week in my daily walks (from home) and hope to complete the 260-mile target by the end of May.
I am always loathe in these letters to make specific requests for money (since many of you have supported me generously already and many will have other calls on their resources in these unprecedented times). But if you could donate anything, whether a large or small amount, towards this appeal then I would be really grateful. The link for my JustGiving page is below (or of course you could send a cheque in the traditional way!).
One piece of good news is with regard to the PACT Clinic (which you will know has been a major project for me over this last couple of years). The lockdown so far seems not to be so severe in Ankpa as in other parts of Nigeria. And so the required Environmental Health Certification and fumigation have been achieved. The College (with the support of the Mission Hospital) have advertised for staff and hope to interview very soon. I really do hope and pray that the Clinic will soon be fully up-and-running, not just for the needs of the College community, but also for the wider Ankpa community with affordable basic medical care – not least if and when the pandemic strikes the town with full severity in coming weeks. Thanks so much to all those who have supported this cause.
I will sign off now. I hope that all of you who receive this letter are keeping well, coping with lockdown, and “staying safe”. Your interest, your encouragement, and of course your prayers, for my overall Nigeria project are greatly appreciated.
PS: On a personal note, Marlene had recently resumed her role as Marie Curie Hospice Chaplain and several of our children are also in front-line roles. So far, all of us are safe and well - including our eight grandchildren, whom we miss seeing so much.