Stories from Michika

 These stories were provided by Center for Caring Empowerment and Peace Initiative (CCEPI), a non-profit organization run by Dr. Rebecca Dali. Her organization operates 3 Skills Acquisition Centers in Northeast Nigeria. These centers have been a wonderful way to begin rebuilding lives.

Ladi – When Michika was invaded by Boko Haram militants, I and  my entire family ran to the mountain to hide. We were there on the mountain for several days before even the mountain became insecure because the Boko Haram Militants were coming up and hunting for our men. After some days, we decided to leave the mountain and head for Dlaka village. It was on our way to Dlaka that we fell into the hands of the enemies we so much dreaded. They instantly seized my husband and other men who were in the group. They gave my husband and the other men a choice to either renounce Christianity and convert to Islam, or face death. My husband and the other men refused and so they paid with their lives. We spent many months moving from one place to the other in search of food, shelter and security. Finally we returned to Michika when everything had died down. That was when we started another life all together.

Monday – The past few years of my life have been very uneasy for me as a teenager. I lost my father as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency in Michika. I was 13 years old when all of this happened. I have also tasted hardship even at that very tender age, during the course of our plight trying to escape the Boko Haram militants. I tasted hunger, sickness, cold and saw some of the most horrific sights ever in my entire life. The experiences of my past are things I don’t ever want to experience ever again in my life. I am 17 years old now and I am learning to forsake my past and move on with my life. I appreciate the opportunity given to me by CCEPI to acquire skills so that I can have a better future.

Awa – I am a double orphan, having first lost my mother long before the Boko Haram Insurgency; and my father who was killed by the advancing Boko Haram insurgents. When the Boko Haram started approaching Michika, I and other people fled to Kwapale and settled there. While we were there, there was so much hardship and I barely ate more than once in a day. As a result, I started prostituting around with soldiers who offered me money and slept with me. That was how I was able to manage my life for a very long time. One day, a certain woman approached me and admonished me concerning my way of life. The woman encouraged me to abandon prostitution and find a legitimate way of earning a living. I felt encouraged because the woman understood my situation and did not judge me, rather she gave me a listening ear and showed me that there was hope.  One day, while in church I heard the advertisement about CCEPI and what it does. I developed interest and applied into the sewing department. While attending my classes and also selling Kunu (Gruel), I got into a relationship and eventually got married. Today, I am a committed student of the sewing department of CCEPI’s livelihood centre in Michika. I have learnt a lot and still learning. CCEPI has helped me to find a new meaning for my life. I am happily married and also involved in petty trading. I have moved on from my past and now believe that there is hope for the future. To God be the Glory.

Fadi – I am a widow and a mother of 7. My husband was killed on the 26th day of February, 2014 by Boko Haram militants who invaded Michika and shattered our lives and livelihood. The death of my husband meant I had to take care of our 7 children all by myself. It has not been easy for me but I have been trying my best with God’s help. I am now a student in CCEPI’s livelihood centre Michika, where I am acquiring new skills and learning to live again. I have come to learn that everything happens for a reason and I have decided to concentrate on raising my children, rather than entertaining regrets and bitterness for the past.

Disaster Response Ministry in Maiduguri

From EYN Disaster Ministry Reports

Food Distribution

The road from Kwarhi (EYN Headquarters) to Maiduguri is less than 150 miles but it is a treacherous journey. The section from Damboa to Maiduguri  goes through an area close to a Boko Haram stronghold and is only accomplished with a Military escort. Hundreds of vehicles line up with Military at the front, rear and middle hoping to ensure a safe passage. As the EYN disaster ministry traveled this road they witnessed the Boko Haram’s destruction of homes and businesses. The farms on the outskirts of Damboa lie fallow; it continues to be too dangerous to work the fields despite the fact that the survival of most people in the area is dependent on farming.

Upon arrival at Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, the Disaster Response Ministry held three large food & supplies distributions; helping 577 families. Medical assistance was also provided at the distributions. Recipients of the relief were extremely thankful and many told tragic stories of the death of family members.

Participants in a Trauma workshop

Ester Kashim shared, “I was sick when the Boko Haram caught me and took me away from my home in Gavva. I spent two years and three months with them in the Sambisa forest and in another location around Lake Chad. When a fight occurred between the Boko Haram and some military, I was released and ran away. By this time I was pregnant but got to Maiduguri where I stayed at a military barracks for a month before an uncle found me and took me to his home. My baby has now been born, her name is Rebecca, and I am trying to take my High School exams. Thank you for your assistance!”

Teaching on Forgiveness

Trauma workshops have also been held recently in the Maiduguri area. Testimonies from these workshops confirm the need for this ministry. Maryamu testified after her workshop, “I was angry and hardly forgave before, but now I have learned the importance of forgiveness; hence from now on I will forgive people who hurt me.”

Violence continues in Maiduguri and the surrounding countryside. Attacks have occurred within the city and on the road from Damboa despite the Military escort. We continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.

Update from Pam and Dave Reist (volunteering in Nigeria)

Pam Preaching in Mubi temporary church

Since the church building was destroyed in the insurgency of 2014, a temporary building sits in its place…tree-trunks for posts, rough-cut timbers for rafters, cinder block gable ends, plastic chairs and wooden benches accommodate a congregation of over 700.  On the floor behind the speakers’ seats is a nest of chicken eggs just days from hatching, and a lizard is visible underneath the plexiglass lecturn.

On Sunday morning, May 28, we celebrated worship with the congregation at E.Y.N. No. 2 Mubi.  In spite of the violence they have suffered and the damage that was incurred, the congregation was overflowing and the spirit and the weather were warm!  The almost three-hour service included dynamic singing by six choirs accompanied by drums and a variety of instruments, congregational singing, numerous announcements, a detailed financial report, collection of offerings twice (tithes and building fund), introduction and dedication of the new youth membership class, reception of new members, and many, many prayers, including prayers for a bumper harvest from the crops being planted.   Dave was asked to give a greeting and pray, and I was honored to preach.

new church Mubi 2In the churchyard outside the temporary building, a new one is underway – the walls are going up as the funds come in. They were pleased to share that they had qualified for one of twenty $5000. grants from the CoB U.S.

Before the day was over, we had visited several more church buildings in the Mubi area alone that had been burned by the insurgency.  All are now rebuilding with great anticipation!  These lovely resilient people are full of hope as they “press on.”

A few more highlights of the last two weeks:

Bringing greetings from U.S. to pastor training event at E.Y.N. Conference Center.

Greeting at PDPDave presenting the keys to the second tractor (for use in the Kwarhi area) on behalf of the CoB U.S.) to E.Y.N. President Joel Billi.

Dinner with E.Y.N. leadership and presenting the E’town banner to Brother Joel.

IMG_8758Demonstrating popping corn at E.Y.N. Headquarters.

Dave making popcornDinner and discussion with Kulp Bible College leadership – hosted by KBC President Dauda Gava.

Hanging with new friends at the C.oB. house at K.B.C.Hanging at the house

We miss those who are absent from us and pray for you daily!  Much love from Nigeria!

Pam & Dave Reist

Skills Acquisition Centers help widows and orphans

Dr. Rebecca Dali

Dr. Rebecca Dali is the Director of Center for Caring Empowerment and Peace Initiative (CCEPI). Her Non-profit runs three Skills Acquisition Centers in Jos, Yola, and Michika. They specialize in training widows and orphans by teaching them for 3-6 months in either sewing, knitting or computers.

As part of the computer training, the students worked on vivid Power Point presentations about their own lives. After giving the presentations to the other students, they discussed their stories; this sharing of trauma is an important part of healing.

Sewing practice

In the sewing section, students work on mastering the manual treadle and are learning to sew various dress styles. Knitting students are making baby sweaters and caps which will be used during the “cold” season in December and January.

Another group learned to make women’s purses. A widow named, Lella, said for the first time in three years her life was beginning to have meaning and it brings her joy each time she learns and makes something new.

Lella learning to make a purse

Knitted garment

Keep Dr. Rebecca and each team of workers in your prayers as each center faces its own challenges. Some do not have enough chairs, others have no camera to document the work, transportation to and from the center is challenging, and there are always more who need help than the centers can accommodate.

 

Tractor Update

By Dave Reist

Dave Reist hands off tractor to Gurku Leadership

Both Gurku and Kwarhi have received their tractors.  Pam and I were at Gurku from Wednesday noon through Friday noon which gave me an opportunity to get some of the bugs out of the tractor and the implements.  They actually had me out on the “back 40” with the disc plow, which was quite an experience!  There were many items that a US dealer would have done that were not done such tighten bolts, install drawbar, adjust hood, etc.  I also discovered that the trailing wheel on the disc plow had been installed backward and the actual discs on the disc harrow were installed end-for-end.  Both mistakes made by the dealer.  (During the purchasing process, Abu the dealership owner said, “Dave you know so much more about this equipment than we do”).

Unloading the tractor

There was great excitement at Gurku when the tractors arrived Tuesday and according to Markus great excitement at Kwarhi too!!  One of the men (I think Ibrahim the school headmaster and trauma healing teacher) at Gurku commented “Our children will remember this day (arrival of tractors) for the rest of their lives.”

Yesterday I left the Gurku equipment in the hands of the Agric Chairman, a very competent IDP resident appointed by Markus.  I also created a logbook in which to enter service/maintenance records, jobs accomplished by the equipment, billing, etc.  Carol Smith printed a Massey Ferguson Care booklet for the Chairman.  Abu did not have an Owner’s Manual to give us but he will supply one.

Dave Reist and the tractor are the main attraction of the day

It is, of course, our intent that after a hopefully short incubation period, the tractors will be completely self-sustaining.  Asta, a BEST member, who has a farm near Gurku has asked me about rental of equipment policy.  There seems to be a strong need for this equipment and many ways for it to create value which will then create revenue.  Markus has stressed the importance of accountability to his “team” and I believe this project has a great chance of success.

Today or tomorrow an experienced tractor driver is coming to Gurku (and will be a resident there) to do the actual operation of the tractor.  Pam and I plan to go to Kwarhi with Markus sometime in the next two weeks to present the equipment to EYN and to conduct the initiation process.

Tractor arrives at Kwarhi

We are hearing and sensing much gratitude for this project and so we convey that sincere gratitude to you and the many others who have made this possible!

Trust and Obey

contributed by Pam Reist

Our Nigerian experience began yesterday, with a deeply meaningful and moving full-of-life worship service of about 500 at the EYN Church in Abuja: a modern worship team,  woman’s choir with drums, consecration of church leadership, awards presented to youth, and recognition of others for special service, all in addition to preaching and singing and praying – Alleluia! Amen!  While much of the music was new to us, when we sang When we walk with the Lord,’ we couldn’t help but think that just a few weeks ago, we sang that very hymn around the tables at Love Feast in Elizabethtown, with our beloved community.

And now, in this “land of many possibilities,” we are imagining that “trust and obey” may take on new meaning during these two months that we will be serving with our Nigerian sisters and brothers.  The hospitality has been overwhelming, even these first few days.  “You…are…welcome!” is a greeting we hear over and over.  And we do feel welcome to this land of many possibilities!

Dave Reist at Abuja church with Ayuba and Nancy Gwani

Salam alaikum,

Pam and Dave Reist

Nigeria Tractor Project is a go!

Thank you to all who have been raising special funds for the Nigeria Tractor Project! Several churches and districts have contributed significantly and we are ready to buy the tractors and get the project underway. (Any additional funds raised for this project will go into purchasing seeds and fertilizer.) The recipients in Nigeria are very enthusiastic about this venture.

Markus Gamache reports, “Many of the people from Northeast Nigeria cannot return to their towns and villages because of unsafe conditions. It could take a year or two before the situation is under control enough for them to return and start a new life.  The main way for these people to support themselves and their families has always been through farming.  The country at the moment is facing large-scale economic inflation caused by political instability, religious discrimination, ethnic clashes, bribery, corruption and disputes over oil monies in the south. All this has contributed to the lack of educational opportunities for many of the children as well as a crumbling infrastructure that has left most social services inaccessible to a large part of the population. The result, especially in northeast Nigeria is widespread hunger and poverty.

Most farming is done by hand and is very labor intensive. The tractors will help greatly with this work. One tractor will be used at the EYN Headquarters in Kwarhi and the other with Displaced Persons around the Abuja area.

With the help of the tractors, they will be able to clear larger areas of land, form Co-op groups that will plant the crops and share the harvest among their members. Some of the crops will  be sold and the proceeds will provide for next year’s maintenance, purchase food for those in remote areas, and provide school fees and medicine.

Please continue to pray for the success of this project and for the people who will benefit from it!

 

EYN Church to Maximize Soya Bean Production

By:  Zakariya Musa

Participants and Facilitators

EYN Church of the Brethren in Nigeria’s Agricultural Department embarked on a Soya Beans Chain Training Workshop. The three day workshop was planned to train 32 people from different communities, reported Rev. James T. Mamza, Director of Integrated Community Based Development Program (ICBDP) The workshop trained trainers who will go back to their farming communities to stepdown the knowledge to others. Although the workshop was designed for 32 people only 18  were able to attend; about 50% of the participants were women.

Three Facilitators: Mr. Kefas John, Mr. Daniel Y. Zafi and Mrs. Salamatu J. S. Billi were engaged to teach on soya beans as a crop, Soya beans production, use of inoculant in legumes, field measurement, and marketing soya beans. Other topics discussed include the use of agrochemicals and their side effects. Such teaching is coming to the farming communities who now embracing the use of agrochemicals to reduce farming cost.

This is an area that produces different crops such as Maize, Groundnuts, Beans, and Millet.  I asked  Rev. Mamza why they were emphasizing soya beans?  He replied, “Soya beans is referred to as a Golden crop because it has so many benefits:  it is easy to farm,  it improves soil nutrients in terms of nitrogen and fixation of soil, it destroy pests and suppresses weeds, and it has about 46% protein content to improve nutrition in the human body.”

One of the workshop participants from Chibok, Sister Gladys Mallum, commented that the training was an interesting one. Her concern is people’s acceptance to grab what she called “privilege to maximize farm produce and profit”. By embracing soya beans, she learned that people can fight poverty in their communities.

This is the first of a series of workshops sponsored by CoB and EYN; they will continue in other zones.

Sharing Lafiya!

Sally Rich at Pegi church in Nigeria

Contributed by Sally Rich

Every morning as we met with our Nigerian brothers and sisters in preparation for a day of work, we would hear and express the traditional Hausa greeting, “Lafiya,” wishing the receiver health in body, mind, and soul. This greeting was especially meaningful as we met our second morning with EYN members living in camps for displaced persons at Masaka and Gurku. These brothers and sisters have recently been traumatized by attacks of Boko Haram on their homes and families in the Chibok region. Many have witnessed the brutal killings of husbands, wives, and even parents. While they can call upon spiritual strength and innate courtesy to offer us a welcoming smile, often beneath that smile lies deep pain and a sense of desperation about their near and distant future. They need Lafiya.

Women learning to sew (CCEPI skills center in Yola)

While some of us felt sad to just visit and leave, our leader, Markus Gamache told us our visit took their mind off their troubles for awhile, and gave them a chance to share their troubles with brothers and sisters from far away. It gives them hope to know that we know their situation. One of Markus’ objectives is to create work programs for the people of the camps that keep their bodies, minds and souls busy with useful work, as they begin the healing process. There it is again: Lafiya, health in body, mind and soul.

 It’s even better when these programs provide an income that can be used immediately, as well as a skill that can be used in the future to create income. Programs where people learn tailoring, fishery skills, and new farming skills provide this kind of practical hope. The interfaith camp at Gurku is a pioneer in these areas, but other camps need the resources to create such programs as well. 

Simple sewing “shop” in Gurku

Some of us on the work camp were dreaming about a new kind of “sharing” camp, where each participant would come prepared to share gifts from their own experience, even as we accept gifts from the experiences of our Nigerian friends. An organic farmer may share some of what he has learned, and together find ways to adapt that knowledge to the local conditions. A music lover may come prepared to start a choir among camp members, and in turn learn songs to take back to our congregations at home. A physical therapist may share exercises tailored to the aches and pains people may be having. You get the idea…what might your gift be?

 I have a fair trade business selling jewelry and accessories made by women in Uganda. So in the spirit of a sharing camp, I went to Nigeria looking for a product or two that women there could make and I could sell. A friend from our church who works at our local Brethren nursing home suggested rice therapy pillows would be a great product to sell at nursing home gift shops. I was able to connect with a group of EYN women who are learning to sew, and they made me rice therapy pillows, walker bags, as well as scarves and headbands. At the Gurku camp, I met with a group of widows who had recently learned to make soaps and ointments from natural local materials, and I hope to have those by the time of Annual Conference, where I will have a booth. Look for me there! The name of our project: Lafiya! Of course. 

Clothes from a knitting business given to a displaced widow

WHY SHOULD I GO?

John at Pegi workcamp. Photo by Pat Krabacher

by John Krabacher

My wife Pat returned from her first Nigerian Fellowship Tour in August 2016. First thing she said was, “You need to go – it was a fantastic experience.” My first thought was why do I need to go? Or, do I need to go?

Pat left to go grocery shopping and I picked up the Messenger. Like always, I read it from the back to front. On the back page I saw an ad for volunteers for work camps for Nigeria. Help rebuild a church for the EYN. My mind went wild. Should I ask for more info or not? Pat returned home and almost as immediate as she did to me I said, “Let’s go to a work camp in Nigeria.”

What am I saying I want to go? Pat called Roxanne Hill and she verified the group will help the Utako church in Abuja Nigeria to rebuild. I still said I am not sure. However, Pat made reservations and the confirmations came quickly, in an email I will go no matter how bumpy the road. “I will follow Jesus no matter how bumpy the road,” became the mantra of work camp 2 this was part of a song we learned from the women of Pegi.

After many hours on a plane and transfers we finally arrived in Abuja. I first noticed I was “not in Kansas anymore”. The work camp group of 7 people, I have never really met, got together at the immigration booth to have passports checked. Afterwards, I looked in the big hall and saw the smiling face of my friend Marcus Gamache. He said, “Brother John so glad you are here.” I know why I am here – it is because of the relationships I formed in 2015 with the BEST Group when the EYN Women’s Choir at annual conference in Tampa then a time of rest at Camp Ithele, Orlando. I was so happy and relieved to see him.

Pegi workcamp

This trip was about building, not just brick and mortar building but inter-personal relationships. I knew Marcus would take care of us. He will not let any danger happen to us and it didn’t. The first evening we were greeted by Mala Gadzama (an accountant) who took us out to dinner. During the build we talked about his vision of an orphanage. I believe he was tugging at my heart, I am not a kid person. Did God bring me here to change me?

The next day the group got together in the morning and Marcus was going to take us to the worksite at the Pegi village. Ridding on one of the bumpiest road I have ever been on, we arrived and saw partially built walls and many bricks stacked outside.  Ayuba Gwani (The Engineer) instructed us with many other helpers, men and women to move the bricks from outside of the partially built church to inside near the gable ends. We formed a line and passed bricks from one person to the other. It was hundreds of bricks, I was so tired. After moving the heavy bricks he said “Cement – mix cement.” I grabbed a shovel but he said, “This is for young men, you rest.”  I said to myself, “Why am I here? I came to work.”

I watched five young men shovel sand and bags of cement, mixing water fast. I am determined to get into this but not today. After it was mixed, ladies from Pegi with babies on their backs carried pans of motor to be lifted to other men on the scaffolding to  cement the bricks in place. I talked to several of the guys and they started to tell me their stories of Boko Haram destroying their homes and killing neighbors and parents at Chibok. Many of the women were widows. We talked and cried until it was time to go. I left saying, “We will meet again on Monday.”

I did not come to just be with this work camp group but to form relationships with people of great loss and hear the stories as horrible as they might be. This was part of the healing process. The people wanted someone else to know they love God enough to build a church in His honor. I was honored to be with them. This was a time to laugh, a time to cry, and a time to bring back hope and life to a EYN Church in Pegi. My prayers are with the congregation many miles away. I know why I went to Nigeria.