14 March 2008

One easter.

n 2006, I was living in Kwarhi, Nigeria. School had
closed for the semester so most of my students
traveled home for the three week break. The Swiss
family that had been my second family, packed their
house up and moved back to Switzerland after 9 years
of living in the village. My other 2 Swiss friends
that lived near me invited me to travel over the
border to Cameroon for a week of train hopping and
beachcombing. My plans fell through when I realized
the Nigerian embassy was holding my passport in a
locked filing cabinet in some unlit room in the
capitol city. So my friends went on their travels, my
students went home, and I stayed back at the house.

Easter is a very traditional time in my village. Most
successful, career oriented urban folks travel home to
their (or their mother's) village. They bring gifts
for the elders and the babies, and especially for
their mothers. Easter is a time to get on home, catch
up with family news and go to many, many weddings.

On Easter Sunday, the festivities start around 3am.
Yes, I really mean 3 am! Everyone goes to bed quite
early on Saturday night. Then, around 2am, I start to
hear feet slapping the dusty road near to the west
side of my house. Then I look out my slatted window
and see little flickers of lanterns rushing past,
accompanied with the slapping feet.

My friend, Saratu, enters my squeaking gate, so I know
it's about time to go. She's wearing the women's
fellowship uniform. I have on pajama bottoms and a
long sleeve t-shirt. It's dark so I know i don't have
to get formally dressed.

So we begin walking out of the village down a narrow
path. In fact, the path is so narrow, I follow right
behind my friend's quiet silhouette. My eyes sweep
left to right and I can faintly see the outline of
other groups of people walking on the path similar to

We walk for 15 minutes through bone dry fields that
held peanuts and corn stalks a couple months ago. Soon
we see the small incline of picnic rock ahead of us.
We cut across the ruts of the corn fields and start
the little ascent of this ivory faced rock. As we walk
up, we're greeted by many people. I can't really see
them well, but they can surely see me. The youth greet
me with, "Good morning and good evening auntie!" They
giggle about this and try it on other people who walk
past them. No one really can state if this is a late
night or an early morning.

On this little rock, there are about 1000 Christians
sitting in groups of 2 or 3. I sit with a group of
women from my village. To the left of me, youth have
started singing songs that gain more voices with every
chorus and verse. We join in the song when we're sure
of the tune and song. Clapping joins the voices and
suddenly we've become this pulsing body. We continue
through songs and move onto Scriptures.

We pass little flashlights around so each woman can
read it in the dark. I take a quick check and see that
I have the only English Bible. Everyone else is
thumbing through their Hausa language bibles. As the
Luke and John verses are read and deconstructed, I
realize that I am in the midst of an amazing
gathering. All of these men and women woke up in the
middle of the night. They walked in near silence. They
sat and sang and read the Bible for two hours. As the
sun rose, songs of Christ's resurrection throbbed
through us all. We stood near one another, said a
final prayer and walked the different paths to our
different villages. Back in the village, neighbors
bring steamy pots of porridge over to me, and I try
and whip up omelettes to send back to them. This food
passing continues most of the day and even occurs
after morning worship, too.

So even when my students, my traveling companions, and
my good friends headed out of my area for that Easter
weekend, I was taken care of, by my community. I was
part of a group that had many differing denominations.
We learned many songs that had never been sung in our
church before. We sat in groups with familiar and
unfamiliar faces. Waiting for Christ's resurrection
with a thousand Christians was almost enchanting. I
felt that walking in the darkness and celebrating
Christ's return with the sunrise was fitting for our
community. We were bound by this opportunity to
worship God in a humble, stripped down way.

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