Within months of arriving in Nigeria, the coronavirus pandemic forced Paul and Tricia Todd, sent from High Kirk Presbyterian Church in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, to be confined to their compound. Here, the couple share how they and others have used their God-given gifts to adapt to the challenges of community living in lockdown.
Tricia Todd writes:
Two months ago, we were told to expect lockdown as the coronavirus had started to make an appearance in Nigeria, so I started to buy a few extra items and then put some things into the freezer, in preparation for the stay-at-home order.
The lockdown meant that there were no gardeners, or house helps allowed and then the news came that the schools would not reopen after the Spring break, meaning children on the compound were no longer allowed to attend Hillcrest School in Jos.
After a few people from other compounds came to live in empty houses here to avoid being isolated, we started adapting to a new way of living so we could best support one another.
As a teacher, it started with the issue of schooling. When Hillcrest decided to have online classes, we set into action. With the help of Jenny, an SEN classroom assistant, we set up a schoolroom. The children came to school each morning and we supervised their learning, making sure that they understood what was being asked of them, as well as making sure that work was in on time. Before long, people who were gifted in art, crafts, cooking and sports, all got involved and we had a whole day of school!
Everyone living on the compound waited two weeks to make sure we were clear of the virus, before starting to meet together. We decided to hold church on Easter Sunday with a potluck afterwards. Those gifted in music and singing led and someone preached.
We so enjoyed worshipping together, that we have continued our Sunday morning services each week, with different people leading and preaching. As we have two Nigerian families on the compound, we also have worship ‘Nigerian style.’
As time went on, we started helping one another. As a new mission worker, I was unsure of some of the techniques of preserving food that was in season and so my neighbour showed me how to can tomatoes and beetroot for the months ahead.
Someone on the compound can make bread and so we are all learning how to do that – some better than others I might add, but it has been fun learning and experimenting. The mission maintenance man is on the compound and so we are making sure that our houses are rainproof and anything that needs to be fixed is being fixed! Someone is good at sewing and is helping others to use a sewing machine to make clothes. One of the ladies decided to start a Bible study for the ladies on the compound and that has been a real blessing to us as we grow in our faith.
What about exercise? Well, we have a large court in the middle of the compound for basketball and tennis and you will see people out in the mornings or evenings, walking around and during the day, the children are playing on the court as well as cycling around it.
We have had pizza nights and evenings watching a DVD together – making sure that we are all together and able to chat with one another and support each other when we are feeling low.
In the beginning, when we were limited to getting out of the compound and needed fresh fruit and vegetables, we were able to have our own delivery service – one of the ladies knew one of the market sellers and we placed an order and it arrived at the gate, where we picked it up and paid the man. We also have people coming with meat, eggs, granola, bread, English muffins, gas, and then if we can get out, someone will go for others on the compound for supplies. It’s like an extended family.
As for our ministries – for some, they are continuing as we work from home and keep in contact with people by email, WhatsApp and ZOOM. (We just had a really special SIM Nigeria prayer meeting using Zoom to bring together most of our missionaries in Nigeria or on home assignment). For others, they have had to adapt to helping in the compound and learning new skills.
As I think of the body of Christ, I feel that we on the compound are like that. Each of us is needed to help and support one another and as we use our gifts, we are building each other up and encouraging each other as we live alongside each other.
Paul Todd writes:
One of our colleagues keeps writing about how we now have the time to read books, think, and pray. I’m not sure just where she is finding that mysterious element called ‘time’, as I am as busy as ever.
Before returning to Nigeria, I had spent about nine years seconded from SIM Nigeria to work with Africa Christian Textbooks (ACTS) where I am the publishing director. Most of that was done by working from home – a spare bedroom in our house in Northern Ireland.
When we returned to Nigeria in 2019, some of that work had to take a back seat, as I have been filling in for the home assignment of our personnel coordinator, as well as being deputy director for SIM Nigeria. It has been a steep learning curve dealing with all of the comings and goings of missionaries and working on recruiting and placing new folks.
With lockdown, I am once again working from home – this time in our house in Jos. Apart from some limited personnel work, I have tried to get caught up on some editing and preparing for lectures via the internet at the Jos ECWA Theological Seminary (JETS) summer school.
So far, I have two books ready for cover design and printing. There are two to three others still in the works and I have a lot more to do with lecture preparation. Hopefully, we will have the funds to print the books when we can function more normally. The postgraduate dean at JETS also sent me an MA thesis to mark, which I’m busy working my way through – I spent this afternoon checking the student hadn’t plagiarised his work. He is in the clear on that one. However, as for his writing style and grammar..!
And of course, there are all of the routines of just living here. We have had to pick up some chores that we would have normally asked our house help to do. We are currently allowed off our compound four days a week and on one of those days, I take our single girls out shopping as none of them have a car. Another of those days I usually head to one of my three workplaces – the SIM Nigeria office, JETS, or the ACTS Bookshop HQ. I also share in the preaching at our Sunday morning compound service alternating with another colleague.
How long is this likely to go on? While community transmission of the virus is growing in Nigeria, people are getting tired of the lockdown – and some have never paid it any heed in the first place. So, there is more pressure to go back to work.
Many Nigerians are day labourers needing to earn money every day just to buy food for that day. Food prices have risen sharply, in part due to all the restrictions trying to slow down the spread of the virus. So, folks are hurting and the authorities seem to be recognising that they need to relax the restrictions, despite the numbers being infected.
Perhaps by July or August, many of the restrictions will be removed – but then the big challenge will be as to what we can safely resume doing and where we can safely go. With the virus still spreading, in some places quite rapidly, we will have to come up with ideas of how to do ministry in a potentially unsafe environment as we can’t isolate ourselves on our compounds when the rest of the country is trying to get back to work.
By Kerry Allan
- Pray Tricia’s home school will continue to be a real help to both children and their parents.
- Pray for the ACTS management as it seeks to survive in these difficult times.
- Pray for wisdom about how to resume ministry safely once lockdown restrictions are lifted.