Dear Faithful Friends and Family,Can you believe it is already the end of the month? Of the year? Where did it go? It seems that time is running in a faster and faster blur. So much is changing; weather patterns, the economy, etc. The one constant we have is the love of God, expressed through so many ways, but especially through you. You remain a daily reminder that He cares and is concerned, no matter how turbulent the times.The year ended on a high note. Much of the year was a struggle, and many of the battles remain. But God encouraged us in many ways in December, and gave us renewed hope that things will be better in a time and way of His choosing.The greatest encouragement came on the 23rd, when we welcomed a new sister into our family. I tell her story, hoping it will encourage you as well. She first came to our house early in the year, asking if we would buy her unborn baby. The practice is common enough here, both for good and bad reasons. Nkiru told her that we never buy or sell children, and so she left. Months later she returned with a seven month old baby and another 3 year old son. She asked if we would take her children, that she was determined to take the dangerous trek across the Sahara Desert to find her way to Europe. We strongly advised her from doing this, as this is a known ruse for slave traders. She said she was so tired of her current struggles, and she was prepared to take the risk. Her husband had run up debts he could not pay and had just abandoned her and the children. She had no money to pay for the hospital bill at the eventual birth of her second child, and had been detained for weeks before eventual discharge. The doctor had left her stitches in for weeks as well, demanding some payment before he would take them out. She listened to the empty promises of the trafficker, and felt like the unknown would be better that the daily struggle she and so many are facing. Eventually, with pleading and promises of our assistance, she agreed to fore go her dangerous plan, and remain with her children. This was the outcome we wanted and had prayed for. It is easy to harshly judge such a person, and turn her from our door. After all, what kind of mother would want to sell her unborn child, or abandon her small sons? It is not easy to feel, from the comfort of our homes, the level of desperation so many of the world’s poor face. It is easy to say we would do better, if faced with the same circumstances. It is not so easy to get involved with a person who is down at the bottom and sees no way up.At Nkiru’s insistence, we took her to a missionary school, were they offered her free schooling for her two children, and a job for her as a cleaner. The pay is not up to $2 a day, but it allows her to be near her children, and gives her some hope. She will start when school resumes in Jan. In the mean time, she came with her children to volunteer to work in our home. She often refused money, content to have food and fellowship for her and her children. Nkiru quietly talked to her about spiritual matters as they worked together in the house. On the 23rd, in the midst of all the frenzy of last minute preparations, Nkiru informed me of the young lady’s desire to be baptized.We were only too happy to assist in her new birth. James cleaned out the kiddy swimming pool, the site of so many baptisms, and we witnessed another new beginning. This was the highlight of the whole Christmas for me and Nkiru. Nothing could give us greater joy or hope. Everything else, as they say, was icing on the cake.She was not the only volunteer during the month to come share with us. Another young lady spent several days with us to keep from being alone during the holiday. She was raised by a faithful father, who helped install in her the kind of values we would all want to see in our children. She has just finished her university studies, and is waiting to be posted for her one year mandatory community service. Instead of being idle, she looked for a place where she could contribute. Believe you me, we need all the help we can get, especially during this period of time. For her, and all others who work hard on behalf of these children, we thank the Lord.Most of you knew that we went to the north in late November. What you did not know was how low the rice “sack” was. God has touched the hearts of many folks here to keep us supplied with food items. One of the most common gifts people bring is rice. This in turn becomes an item we can share with those who come in need. We started the month with less than one sack of rice. We are ending the year with almost 20 bags, a great reminder of God’s ability to provide. We have given out a lot over this period, so much so the kids came to complain that they were worried we would not have. Nkiru encouraged them to give freely, as we have received freely. It has been encouraging to see the Lord pour so many blessings on our head.Of all the months, December is the most busy. It starts usually with schools visiting us. Various private schools encourage their students to bring food items which they then share with us. So it is a good object lesson in kindness for their kids. It is not always so comfortable for our kids, being on the receiving end. But it is so much appreciated. I enjoy telling the school kids some story with a moral lesson. (Being from the South, I come from a long line of accomplished story tellers) Then we have social clubs, churches, families, businesses, and individuals who come to visit. We are invited to various events, and are humbled by the effort that others make to share during this season.And of course, we can never forget your gifts as well. Beside the normal gifts of love many of you send, some send extra monies so we can have something to put under the Christmas tree. May God continue to richly bless you for all you love and sacrifice.Christmas Day found our house jam packed. Besides all the normal crowd we have daily, we had some of our loved ones from universities return home, plus a lot, lot more. Joshua and Jaleena made it home from Ghana. They entered a bus early Tuesday morning and made it here on Wed. evening. That is a long bus ride, let me tell you. Julie and James were already home. What a joy it was to have them with us. Jodie, Janna and Innocent could not make it due to finance, but we hope and trust they will be with us in future. Tessy and Obinna and their two children came from Abuja on Christmas day, and spent the night. Those of you who have experienced your children coming home with their children know the special joy and pride I felt. What a blessing to be a part of so many lifes. To see them in my mind’s eye as the little ones they once were, and now to see them mature and growing their own families is a special memory I will take away from this Christmas.The actual Christmas feast was a community effort. Everyone pitched in and made it happen. Nkiru was in charge of the presents. She has recently discovered duct tape, so black shopping bags sealed with duct tape was the quickest way to do the massive job. Kudos to her and her crew for seeing so many left with smiles on their faces.I was in charge of the kitchen. Everyone got drafted into service. Someone brought us a goat earlier in the month. Someone else brought a live turkey. So we had a goat pepper soup, a whole roasted turkey, two roasted chickens, 20 gallons of Everything Stew (that is were I pour everything I can find in) 15 gallons of rice, 7 pones of corn bread, a crock pot of beef strips, a big pot of mashed potatoes, cole slaw, 4 cakes, 2 chocolate pies, an apple pie and a bowl of jello. That plus the 200 sandwiches we made to tide us over till the main event. So you helped us buy the extra we needed to feed a lot of folks.There were several things I took away from the day. One was the marvelous way God provided, even when at first things looked hopeless. Second was the fun of working together. I barked a lot like the Marine Master Sargent my late father-in-law was. But at the end of the day, we cooked some pretty good food, and lots of it. And third was the joy of sharing with friends and family, and those in need. I lost count of the number of widows and their children who came. Some I did not even recognize. But no one was turned away hungry, and they came even into the night. What a day of blessings.Nkiru has really had a burden for the kids she saw in the refugee camps. So she and others worked to wash and package another load of clothes and shoes. We have had a really severe harmatan this year, were dust and cold come out of the Sahara Desert. Those in the north have it worse. So we were able to send another shipment of clothes on the 30th, which we know are much needed. Thank you for helping to make this possible.We face the new year in a world full of trouble. Nigeria has long depended on oil for its revenue. Now that the price has dropped so drastically, everything is affected. There is violence in the north still, and threats in the south. There is every temptation to be worried and discouraged. But reflecting back on all that God has done makes us aware that His Will is still being done. There is no time to be anxious or afraid, but rather resolute in our determination to follow Him. We do not know what the future will bring, but we know who is in control.We ask God to richly bless you, as He has promised. Not even a cup of water given in His name will lose its reward. We ask for His protection for you all. We ask Him to continue to fill up your purse. As you give, may it be given to you in greater measure. And may He encourage you and strengthen you, so that you will not grow weary in doing well.We love you. Have a blessed and prosperous year.Cliff, Nkiru and Co.