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Nigeria Summer Camp 2007

Project Dates: July 22-30, 2007

A Personal Commentary

by Bobbi Kitts

"Do you like spaghetti?" Lola asked. "Oh, we're having a likes-and-dislikes, get-to-know-you-better conversation," I briefly thought before exclaiming, "I HATE spaghetti! It's my least favorite food in the whole world!" Scarcely had the words left my mouth before I wished I could grab them back out of the air before Lola heard them. Being in Nigeria for the Feast in 2006 had taught me a lesson that I had too quickly forgotten. The Nigerian brethren dearly want their guests to be comfortable, and Lola, who works with the hotel staff in planning meals, wants them to enjoy their meals. If you're not careful, you will end up with a meal that differs from everyone else's. You're eating beef while others feast on spaghetti. Of course, you don't want this. You want to be treated like everyone else. Panicked, I sputtered, "We're having spaghetti tonight, aren't we? Please let me eat the same thing as everyone else!"

It's not everywhere that your objective is to get your hosts to stop trying to find out what you like best so they can give it to you. You wish you could feel a little less like an honored guest and a little more like family. But then you realize--this is how family should be. And this is how God's family MUST be. "In honor giving preference to one another" begins to ring clearly in your thoughts.

One of the questions posed in the United Youth Corps Participant Manual and Journal is "How has this experience helped you to appreciate your calling?" I appreciate that I have been called to understand what God has planned for the future: that the lame will be healed, that everyone will have enough, that corruption will not be tolerated, that the earth itself will be cleaned up and restored to beauty. I appreciate that I have been given the great privilege to have a chance to participate in that transformation. But the one aspect of God's calling that came into the sharpest focus was the fact that God has called me into a family. And I have family members all over the world!

Certainly, there are cultural differences between my Nigerian brethren and me. According to our separate cultures, we dress differently and eat different staple foods. We call attention with different sounds. Where you and I might say "excuse me" or "hey" to engage a stranger, a Nigerian might make a loud hissing noise: "Sssst!" The Nigerian method of conflict resolution was astonishing. From what I saw, Nigerians yell their opinions and terms angrily at one another, no holds barred. Whereas this kind of face off would likely put a rift between two westerners, on at least one occasion I watched two Nigerian combatants walk off arm in arm only moments after their shouting match concluded. Even the ways that we wait are different. At camp, not a meal went by without the Nigerian campers and staff singing, chanting, even dancing as we waited for the food line to open, while we Americans were, for the most part, more comfortable sitting and chatting.

There are all these differences, and in the midst of it all you may feel a bit disoriented. But one unmistakably familiar thing comes into focus. When you are with your brethren you know it. You recognize the Spirit. You know you are with your family.

» Related Article: "Finding God in Nigeria" by Emily Sandilands

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