Etubom and Mma Under the Gracious Care of Abasi*
*Etubom and Mma are Efik terms of honor and love. Abasi is Efik for God.
I cannot tell how delighted I was, while visiting in one of my member’s homes, to find out that Celeste Reim had written a book about the first three years of her and her husband’s (Norbert, “Nubby”) life in Nigeria. In a book called “A Peek Into My Nigerian Diary” Celeste recounts what life was like in that field, so fertile back in the post-war years.
Nearly fifty years have passed since her concluding remarks were written on June 29, 1948 about their first term in Africa. So many of the village pictures in her book could have been taken yesterday. Many of the hardships and joys of half a century ago are much the same today in the “bush.”
This volume then can serve not only as a nostalgic reminder of the joy in service to Him of those bygone years, but also as a peek into how it is today among our brothers and sisters in the Nigerian Church of the Lutheran Confession.
Allow me to whet your appetite for this fine spiritual fare. Pastor Reim received the call to the Synodical Conference Mission in Nigeria on May 12, 1945. Accepting the call, he left for his assignment the following December 2nd without his wife. After delays, Celeste then set sail for Africa on March 8, 1946. Her upbeat attitude that permeates the book is expressed on that day with the entry: “All the waiting, disappointments, and the days of loneliness will be a thing of the past. I am on my way to Africa!!! Nubby, here I come!”
At Robert’s Field, Liberia, she writes: “I shall never forget this first daylight glimpse of Africa. The morning air was cool and enchanting with all the new and strange sounds of the forest, and the gentle lapping of the water as canoes glided down the river. There was a river in the back yard with native huts on the other side. The natives, awakening for a new day, were calling to teach other.”
There is a thrill for us too as we read this and realize that through His servants, Norbert and Celeste and many others, there was and is an awakening even more joyful and enchanting as that “strange” sound of the Gospel goes forth and THE Light dawns on the heart.
Travel with the author from Lagos as she sees the first of many a scampering lizard and enormous cockroach. Note with her how African time is quite different than back home, for “in Africa one must wait for everything.” It is still the same today. Read and learn of: dash, mud wattle, palaver, raffia, fufu, juju, palm oil chop. Smell the must and mildew with her and see the industrious African garbage man, the ant, at work. Come along with her and her husband on the Harley. Sit with them in their modest home as the rain comes crashing down and the insects come swarming in, attracted by that Coleman light.
Share with her the experience of caring for little Adiaha. Experience the joy of seeing the twins, John and Mary and Grace and Jacob, baptized. The killing of a twin in those days was still prevalent in the bush. Be with her husband as he comprehends the dangerous seriousness of the costumed Ekpos. Trudge along with one of their hired hands during the dry season as he lugs water from 2 1/2 miles away. And there is so much more: harmattan, dowry, the fattening room, death and burial in Africa . . . .
May the following two excerpts convince you that this is a book to read and to pray over that God would raise from our midst more Celestes and Norberts to go where the Gospel is so vitally needed.
“The people in the bush are so poor, and we are so rich in comparison. When I see how little they have, I don’t miss the few things we must do without, which we took for granted when living in the States. They certainly are not necessary for happiness. For many of these people life is just full of burdens and fears. What a great privilege it is for Christians to lead others to happiness through faith in Jesus Christ their Savior, so that they may also look forward to a glorious life with Jesus in Heaven….”
“Sometimes it’s hard to realize that we are in ‘Far away Africa.’ As I go walking outdoors and look up at the sky above, I don’t feel as though there are so many miles between us and our loved ones in the States. True, the scenery is quite different. There are no open fields, just ‘bush’ land and many palm trees and huge cottonwood trees. The road are rough and narrow, and our home is hardly the kind we would want in the States, but it’s home, and I love it. We have the same sky above, the same beautiful stars and moon, the same sun, although a little hotter. Above all, we have the same dear Heavenly Father looking down on us, and watching over us. Which makes me think, what is the difference where one lives while on this earth. The important thing is that we are on the road with Jesus, which leads to heaven.”
— Pastor David Koenig