Can You Have Too Many Send Forth (Send Off) Events?

Sheila and I have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and affection as we have prepared to depart Nigeria. It feels like Nigeria doesn’t want to let us go (there might be some truth to this). Since announcing that we would be leaving Nigeria, Sheila and I have participated in ten going away events (send-forth as Nigerians call them). Yes, TEN! Between events sponsored by my work or church or a combination, we have been celebrated and cheered throughout Abuja. Our blowout send forth shutdown the only Mexican restaurant in town. We had over 100 people attend the event! It has been quite moving because you really don’t think how your life has impacted others but when people start talking about you (Sheila and I), you are easily move to tears by their very kind words.

The Ark International Church (Abuja) sending us off on our last day in church.

During one of our send forth events, a dear friend described us as “friends that you are happy to have around, easy to relate to and don’t judge. They love genuinely…” These are things that people don’t often say to you in person so it was moving to hear these words and be able to respond to them. My mom often says “don’t give me flowers when I’m dead but give me flowers when I’m alive so I can marvel in their beauty.” A Nigerian send-forth is receiving your flowers before you die! Another friend said that her first interaction with me was during her first Sunday at the Ark International Church. On this particular Sunday, I delivered the message. She said that my message helped her see the Bible in an unique light and understand it differently. She went on to say that “when you meet Sentell, he exudes an aura of confidence.” I would like to believe that my messages at church have been meaningful and insightful but you don’t know until someone tells you the impact of the message. Another friend told how Sheila once prayed in church and how moved he was with her prayer. He said, “I have never been so moved by someone praying in church before. I was so close to calling Sheila for her to join me in prayer. She left a huge impression on me.”

The Rwandan Ambassador hosted us at his house for a going away event. The Rwandan community event sent us away with lovely gifts to remember our time in Nigeria.

A colleague at work said “I not only benefited from Sentell in my work but also as a person. I will remember you (Sentell) for the impact that you have made in my family life. I am a better family man, a better manager at my home. And it’s not just him, but also his wife (Sheila). She said somethings to me a few weeks ago and I went home and tried it and immediately starting seeing results…Sentell is always getting me to see the other side and listen to the other opinion. Sentell is leaving a better me…”

Snapshots from our final send off event. We shutdown the only Mexican restaurant in town!

I’ll never forget a boss once telling me that “when you visit a location, you don’t just visit you experience it.” At the time, I had a traveling job that took me to various states to meet with government officials. During each trip I would visit local attractions, experience the local cuisine and try my best to meet a local. This is how I have tried to approach Nigeria. I have read countless books about Nigeria, its political history and its tribal tensions; I have experience numerous cultural events, weddings, naming ceremonies and over-the-top political events; and I have made a wardrobe full of Nigerian outfits, picked up pidgin phrases and tried to see the humor that exist in this life. This is probably why I have confused most people because my mannerisms and accent are somewhere between a confused American and a long lost Nigerian. As Sheila and I prepare for our next destination, I need to start a Nigerian detox so I can get back to my original American roots.

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