Christian Citizenship Seminar 2015

Participants at Christian Citizenship Seminar in 2013. Photo by Rachel Witkovsky

Participants at Christian Citizenship Seminar in 2013.
Photo by Rachel Witkovsky

By Kristen Hoffman, BVS volunteer with Youth and Young Adult Ministry

Christian Citizenship Seminar happens each year and is a powerful experience for all who attend. CCS brings together youth who are passionate, discerning, and concerned about justice and the well-being of our denomination, our communities, and our nation. Participants of past years have shared that their week at CCS was filled with experiences they remember for the rest of their lives.

The 2015 Christian Citizenship Seminar, held April 18 – 23 in New York City and Washington D.C., will focus on the complexities of US immigration policy, suggested reforms, and the consequences of both on immigrant communities. At CCS, high school aged youth and their advisors will explore the issue of immigration and the ways in which faith helps understand and form beliefs about it. This experience will help equip them to understand immigration and to educate their own communities about issues related to immigration.

During this week-long event, participants will explore the ways in which their lives intersect with the lives of immigrants through hearing personal stories from immigrants in the U.S., people who work with immigrants, individuals who are connected with both theology and immigration, and those who work in advocacy and policy-making. Participants will gather new cultural insights in New York City through attending multicultural church services and the United Nations, and in Washington, D.C. they will visit Capitol Hill and meet their representatives and senators to discuss the topic of immigration. Throughout the week, there are important times to get to know other participants, worship together, and reflect upon the day’s events.

Through this conference, students are empowered to take home what they have learned, stay informed about the issue of immigration, and to share about their learning experiences to teach others.

Thank you for supporting great learning opportunities like these that build community and train leaders to address the needs of today.

Learn more about Christian Citizenship Seminar at www.brethren.org/ccs or call Kristen Hoffman at 847-429-4389 or email her at khoffman@brethren.org. Support this and many other life-changing conferences at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Reports from Nigeria: Progress Report for the Week of Jan 26, 2015

PROGRESS in our Nigeria Crisis Response

  • New Headquarters for EYN has been established
  • EYN staff have been housed and their children have been enrolled in local schools
  • Building of staff housing is going on at Headquarters
  • 2 trucks were purchased to use in the distribution of food and construction supplies
  • Lifeline Interfaith project – 100 Christian and Muslim families are being settled, water bore hole was dug, building of semi-permanent houses has commenced
  • Food was distributed to over 12,000 displaced persons in the last 2 weeks
  • Land has been purchased and is being cleared for care centers for the displaced people
  • WYEAHI (Women and Youth Empowerment For Advancement & Health Initiative) – has begun registration for the sustainability projects
  • Numerous trauma healing seminars for pastors, men and women have been held (Mennonite Central Committee in Nigeria is assisting in this effort)
Lifelines Interfaith project Jan 2015

Building houses at the Lifelines Interfaith project. Photo courtesy of EYN Nigeria.

EYN staff quarters at HQ 1.28.14

Building of the staff quarters at EYN Headquarters. Photo courtesy of EYN Nigeria.

 

 

WYEAHI IDP registration table

Registration table with WYEAHI staff busy registering the Internally Displaced Persons. Photo courtesy of EYN Nigeria.

Aishatu, head of WYEAHI

Aishatu, head of WYEAHI, with two Muslim women among those that came for registration. Photo courtesy of EYN Nigeria.

Highlighting WYEAHI (Women and Youth Empowerment For Advancement & Health Initiative)
Aishatu Margima is the Executive Director of the NGO (Non-government organization). She will be assisting in the Nigeria Crisis by providing sustainability projects to displaced persons especially women who are widowed or separated from their husbands. These sustainability projects will include setting them up in small business ventures i.e. sewing machines, grinding machines, cooking & selling food items, giving animals for breeding and selling, and providing farming assistance with seeds, plows, and fertilizer. The first step in this process was an information session where Aishatu told about her program and registered individuals. This first session was completed at a church and both Muslims and Christians were successfully registered. One challenge is that funds are limited and she can only help so many; the organization will first concentrate on the most vulnerable.

Snapshots  (edited for grammar and security)
Amina
“Tragedy befell me during the insurgency attack in Maiduguri, Borno State of Nigeria on Tuesday 2nd October, 2014. On that fateful day they attacked, my beloved husband and two (2) of my lovely children were slaughtered before my naked eyes. They (the Boko Haram) took away our two cars and all valuable things in our house and left me a widow with five children.”

Maria testified that she has not seen her husband since the Michika crisis (July 2014). She is left with her kids and she is now six months pregnant.

EYN Devotions February 1-7, 2015

DAILY LINK WITH GOD 2015EYN Devotions graphic
A Daily Devotional Guide from the
EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)

EYN leaders in Nigeria believe prayer is one of the most important ways to support the Nigerian people and the Church.  These daily devotions were written by EYN members and published by the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. Reading them daily is a powerful way we can be in solidarity and connect with our brothers and sisters caught in this crisis.  EYN’s daily devotional for 2015 will be posted a week at a time on this blog, appearing mid-week for the following week. More information about the crisis can be found at www.nigeriacrisis.org.

EYN Devotion Blog Feb 1-7, 2015

Reports from Nigeria: Maiduguri

Maiduguri map

(Photo: AFP)

By Cliff Kindy, Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer reporting from Nigeria

Maiduguri is the capital city of Borno State. It is home to about 2 million residents. It has  the distinction of being known as the birthplace of Boko Haram. It is also home to many churches that belong to EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The largest Maiduguri congregation attracts up to five thousand people for Sunday worship. Over the last few weeks the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, has attacked numerous villages and towns in the far northeast section of Borno State, including Baga and most recently Maiduguri itself.

There had been a local EYN congregation in Baga at the time of the destruction of the city that made international news recently.  There were many other EYN congregations and preaching points in the area stretching from Baga down to Maiduguri. Those congregations have been in harm’s way as Boko Haram has raided and burned many of these small communities. Refugees fleeing the violence have escaped into Chad, Niger and Cameroon for safety. Many have also fled into the fortified city of Maiduguri.

EYN has a well-coordinated response to the crisis within the city. There are three Christian IDP camps within the city limits and six Muslim IDP camps. Most of the Christians, however, are staying with families and friends, with as many as fifty to seventy people in some of the homes. Though not all the displaced are registered, today (Saturday, 1/24) there was a total of 45,858 Christian IDPs registered in the city and there are probably close to a similar number of Muslims in the six camps. That number has increased nearly threefold from before Christmas and is growing rapidly each day. Federal and state governments have been providing assistance to the IDP camps and the organization of the Christian community has seemed to cover those IDPs staying with families who are missed by the government distributions.

Security within the city is very tight. Persons going to markets or churches are closely screened. Metal detecting wands scan each person at churches before entry. If there is any question people are patted down. No packages are allowed inside the church. A bible is the only thing attendees are allowed to carry with them. The Holy Spirit is the only thing that can pass through security unimpeded. That Spirit seems to be present in abundance as churches are growing under the pressure.

Updates are coming in. Today (Sunday, 1/25) Maiduguri was being attacked by Boko Haram from three directions. In the east they were thirty kilometers away; in the north, 130 kilometers away and the west, ten kilometers away. People inside Maiduguri said it sounded like shooting was coming from all directions. An EYN pastor in Jos has three children in school in Maiduguri and they were the ones that called with the first reports. The city ordered all people to stay indoors so that the military would know who was attacking. The markets were closed. Latest reports are that the military repelled the attacks against Maiduguri but that a city to the north, with Nigerian military barracks, did fall to the attackers. Clearly Boko Haram wants everyone to think they are everywhere and able to attack successfully wherever they choose.

For more information on the Church of the Brethren Nigeria Crisis Response or to donate, visit www.nigeriacrsis.org.

Reports from Nigeria: A Rocky Beginning

Article by Cliff Kindy, Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer reporting from Nigeria

trauma workshop used 1.22.15

Photo by Cliff Kindy.

The EYN church at Vinikilang was the first city congregation as EYN intentionally expanded from the country and the smaller villages in about 1978. The meeting place is a large structure in the shape of a cross with roof trusses built like others I have seen only near North Manchester, IL, as in a former barn of Harold and Rosemary Bolinger. The space will hold up to 1500 people easily. [One pastor noted to the writer that in his district the smallest of the twelve churches that Boko Haram had leveled as they destroyed his district completely was larger than Vinikilang.] This structure is built on a massive outcropping of rock that rises above the Benue River which cuts through this portion of Nigeria.

Vinikilang #1 was the site of the first trauma healing workshop led by Rev. Toma Ragnjiya and his assistant Dlama. Providing opportunities to heal from the trauma implicit in the tragedy that has overwhelmed EYN is a focus of the Crisis Management Team. Rev. Toma has taken on this task as director of the Peace Program of EYN. This was the first of the ongoing trauma healing workshops that are taking place.

Thirty-four mostly displaced pastors were there for this three-day workshop on top of the rock. Themes of the training ranged from stress, trauma, anger and grief to trust and healing from trauma with ample time for sharing personal experiences with each other. Stress, anger and grief are normal human emotions but trauma is an emotional experience that overwhelms the human capacity to recover. What are the steps that help individuals and groups move through trauma to trust, acceptance and healing? How can pastors facilitate that process for their families, congregations and communities?

At the end of the first day one pastor noted, “My blood pressure has dropped significantly. I am no longer carrying immense anger toward Boko Haram.” Participants were invited to imagine Boko Haram fighters also dealing with trauma, perhaps sitting with them in the same circle.

Rev. Toma estimates that trauma has impacted hundreds of thousands of people in EYN alone. There is a long road ahead for their communities in northeast Nigeria, but these first steps were taken before Christmas, 2014 on the rocky outcropping above the Benue River near Yola.

For more information on the Church of the Brethren Nigeria Crisis Response or to donate, visit www.nigeriacrsis.org.

EYN Devotions Jan 25-31, 2015

DAILY LINK WITH GOD 2015EYN Devotions graphic
A Daily Devotional Guide from the
EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)

EYN leaders in Nigeria believe prayer is one of the most important ways to support the Nigerian people and the Church.  These daily devotions were written by EYN members and published by the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. Reading them daily is a powerful way we can be in solidarity and connect with our brothers and sisters caught in this crisis.  EYN’s daily devotional for 2015 will be posted a week at a time on this blog, appearing mid-week for the following week. More information about the crisis can be found at www.nigeriacrisis.org.

EYN Devotion Blog Jan 25-31 2015

Stories from Nigeria: Suffering Under Boko Haram

A look at the horror of what everyday life in NE Nigeria has become.

By Cliff Kindy, Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer reporting from Nigeria

Last July the small community of Wagga was attacked by the Boko Haram. Over three hundred of these terrorists  came into the  village riding on motorbikes and in cars. Most of the Christians fled the village realizing that they would become the primary targets if they stayed.

After a few days, the Boko Haram returned and burned the churches in Wagga and did the same in the larger community of Madagali, which is close by. Although EYN is the largest church presence in this region, not only were EYN churches destroyed but also those belonging to the Church of Christ in Nigeria, Assemblies of God, and the Roman Catholics. There were eight EYN churches burned. The Boko Haram militants settled in Madagali leaving only a small contingent in Wagga.

Since it was just Muslims left in Wagga, Boko Haram called all the Muslim men, “Come, let us pray together.” They issued an ultimatum, “Who would like to join us?” A handful agreed to join. The rest asked for time to consider the invitation until the next day. Boko Haram immediately took nearly two hundred of the men, old and young, to a large hall.

They were separated into groups of ten. The first ten were killed with an ax, the next ten killed with a cutlass and the third group killed with a gun. Then the process was repeated over and over. Later one of each ten was granted “mercy” and so fled. The most elderly were spared and those under fifteen were incorporated into Boko Haram and trained as new fighting recruits. The slaughter led some who had volunteered to reconsider and later escape.

In Wagga the small Muslim community had prayed five times each day. They removed their shoes and washed their feet before praying as do most Muslims. Boko Haram prays just once each day, about seven in the morning, and leaves their shoes on while praying.

Boko Haram did not kill the women when they came to Wagga, but took all the food from the houses leaving nothing for the women. Sarah (not her real name) was a single parent farmer, growing groundnuts, red and white beans and maize. Now she was rarely able to leave her home. When she did she was required to so cover her head that neighbors could barely recognize her or she them. The few Christian women still in Wagga made a pact with the Muslim men who remained that they would live together, not as married couples but as cover from Boko Haram. Those men were able to slip away at times to grind grain for the women to eat.

Sarah is a Christian, but whether Christian or Muslim, living conditions for women were horrible. She and three other women would meet together for prayer whenever the men went out. Her prayer was always, “God, how can I escape to the mountains?”

When Boko Haram first raided Wagga Sarah had fled to safety in the mountains. She returned when she realized her thirteen year old mentally challenged daughter was missing. She remained in Wagga for the sake of her daughter who was later brutally raped by Boko Haram in the six intervening months. The population of Wagga and Madagali has now almost evaporated to only about two hundred people in the two communities.

The day after Christmas Sarah awakened at 11:00 in the night and a vision told her to run for safety. She and one of her friends, who agreed to join her, fled to the mountains. Surprisingly they found forty-three other women and two men who had similarly fled from other places. They crossed safely into Cameroon to Mokolo village where they found some immediate assistance. Then again as a group they crossed the border and found refuge in Yola. From there Sarah came to Jos where her brother has been caring for two of her young children who had escaped in July. She does not know whether her daughter is still alive but she does praise God for the chance to again see her people.

 

New steps in the new year

Where will God lead you in 2015? Photo by Glenn Riegel

Where will God lead you in 2015?
Photo by Glenn Riegel

By Matt DeBall, coordinator of Donor Communications

January can be a great time for setting goals and reflecting; a time to observe our steps from last year and chart a new path for this year. We might make personal challenges related to fitness, nutrition, recreation, relationships, or finances, but sometimes we also receive challenges from God.

God has surely given great challenges to others in the past. For Abraham, God called him to leave his family and explore a foreign land filled with unfamiliar people. For Esther, God led her to a new role and called her to take a great risk to save her people. For both, the choice was available to reject God’s call, but by trusting in God and summoning a great amount of courage, they stepped forward and accepted God’s challenge.

In 2015, there are many events and opportunities to partake in ministry through the Church of the Brethren. Perhaps God is calling you to participate in one or more of the following ways:

Pray for our international partners by receiving the weekly Global Mission Prayer Guide.

Grow by attending a transformative conference like the Intercultural Gathering, Young Adult Conference, National Junior High Conference, Annual Conference, and National Older Adult Conference.

Serve through Brethren Volunteer Service for a year-long project, attend a summer workcamp of the Workcamp Ministry, or spend a week at a disaster project of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Give to support the continued work of the many life-changing ministries of the Church of the Brethren.

Like Abraham and Esther, we have the choice to remain where we are or to follow where God is leading. While it would be easier to carry on in 2015 just as we did in 2014, God may be challenging us to do something new. May we listen to the Spirit of God, step forward in faith, and trust God to guide our steps in the coming year.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

EYN Devotions Jan 18-24, 2015

DAILY LINK WITH GOD 2015EYN Devotions graphic
A Daily Devotional Guide from the
EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)

EYN Devotion Blog Jan 18-24 2015

EYN leaders in Nigeria believe prayer is one of the most important ways to support the Nigerian people and the Church.  These daily devotions were written by EYN members and published by the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. Reading them daily is a powerful way we can be in solidarity and connect with our brothers and sisters caught in this crisis.  EYN’s daily devotional for 2015 will be posted a week at a time on this blog, appearing mid-week for the following week. More information about the crisis can be found at www.nigeriacrisis.org.

A Nigerian’s Response to Baga News

by Carl Hill, co-director, Nigeria Crisis ResponseBaga graphic

Many stories are coming out of Nigeria concerning the violence in the Northeast part of the country. This is where the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, has been carrying out a destructive campaign to eliminate all who oppose their plan to create an Islamic “Caliphate” in this mostly Muslim populated region. Christians, especially those associated with EYN, have been one of the major targets of this uncontained violence. Killings, kidnappings, burning of villages and looting are just a part of their fear tactics bent on clearing the area of all opposition. Moderate Muslims are not safe either.

Here, in America, it is difficult to know which news stories are accurate and which ones are just exaggerations?  After being in Nigeria over the last two years, our opinion is that much of what we read in the papers and on-line in not totally reliable. For instance, many of the news stories published comes from reporters based in Abuja (the Capitol) or Lagos (a large modern city located in the far South West of the country). This would be like getting breaking stories of Ferguson, Missouri from a reporter based in Miami, Florida or Los Angeles, California? While the story may have some basis in fact, more reliable reporting would come from a reporter much closer to the scene of action.

One of the things we are trying to provide with blog posts is to publish stories from our people in Nigeria! This could be a human interest story from American volunteers (like Cliff Kindy who is there now) or from Nigerians who have proven to us to be reliable sources of information.

Last week, many of you read about a massacre in a border town called Baga. Reports came in that the worst massacre in this long struggle took place there? I contacted our man in Nigeria, knowing that he had connections in both the Muslim community as well as the Christian one. Below is his communication he sent regarding events in Baga and the surrounding area. The bottom line is that the situation in Northern Nigeria remains very unstable. As the Church, we need to continue to pray for all those embroiled in this senseless violence. This includes the misguided members of the Boko Haram. It appears that only through the intervention of God Himself will this crisis ever find resolution.

Dear brother,
Greetings to you from cold Jos.
Baga is a town that majors in fish business.  Most of the fish we get from Chad basin comes through Baga. Baga is a big border (town) where most forces have their offices there. Forces from Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria (have been reported) to be there. My junior brother from Maiduguri told me that the whole town was overrun by BH  (Boko Haram) and many people were killed.  Since the beginning of August to December most Christians left the town because of fear and (the) threat from BH.

About the kidnapping and killing:  No forces will tell you the number of casualties because most of the military have run away, but we got some information from a few Muslims that are there.  Probably more than 200 people left dead and kidnappings have been going on daily.  The movement for forceful recruitment into BH for young people is almost everywhere now.  Women are kidnapped from almost every village and town.  The towns of Michika, Madagali, Gwoza and all other towns under the control of BH are facing kidnappings.

People that escaped from their custody will narrate their ordeal. God is helping lots of people coming out from different BH camps. Yola is collecting more and more people again.  Jos and Abuja is the final destination.

We have been working on reducing people in my house (at last count there was over 40) but we are getting more from Cameroon though most of them are in transit.

Na gode sosai (which means: “I thank you very much”)