Reflections on the August Fellowship Tour (Part 2)

by Pat Krabacher

Non-identical twins. Pat and Dr. Rebecca

Non-identical twins. Pat and Dr. Rebecca

Aug 3, 2016 – “Care for the Widows and Orphans”

I awoke at 4 am this second day in Nigeria and my mind wandered to the next time that we would interact with children at an IDP camp. A hot breakfast was ably prepared by William in the Abuja Guest House. We finished packing for the one-hour trek south to Lafia, Nassarawa and then the 4-hour trek northeast to Jos, Plateau state.

Our opportunity to serve this day was at the CCEPI Widows Intake & Distribution – Lafia, Nassarawa state. Dr. Rebecca Dali has managed her NGO helping widows and orphans for 25 years. Dr. Rebecca anticipated 240 widows would come for the assistance in Lafia (which means ‘wellness’ or ‘good health’). We drove over roads that were “typical for Nigeria”, i.e. very bumpy with lots of pot holes to miss.

Arriving in Lafia we embarked from the van and were greeted by Dr. Rebecca and her CCEPI staff. Seeing my “non-identical twin” Sister, Dr. Rebecca was one of the sweet highlights for this writer. We have been friends for 4 years now and she is one of my dearest sisters in Christ.

CCEPI staff with 3 widows

CCEPI staff with 3 widows

We were provided a CCEPI vest and ball cap to wear while doing intake and distribution to the widows. It was overwhelming seeing the several hundred widows who needed to register to receive the assistance. Doing the intake was a bit challenging since many of the widows did not speak much English. What was special was being able to spend some one-on-one time with, and hugging the widows or otherwise encouraging them.  Many were young and typically had 4 or 5 children. After intake we each took a job in the distribution line giving each widow an item, e.g. bucket, a blanket, Maggi spice cubes, cooking oil, dish soap, salt, 10lb beans, and 50 lb corn. This resulted in the women walking home with the beans and corn on their heads and often with a baby on their backs!

The Lafia’s pastor’s wife and a few friends served us a very satisfying lunch of chicken, rice, watermelon and beverages. The 4 course lunch provided by the host church was typical of the “sacrificial generosity” we experienced all along our trek thru Nigeria.

Team at the Unity House in Jos

Team at the Unity House in Jos

After lunch we departed in the rain drops for Jos, Plateau state. The 4-hour. trek to Jos, brought us to the EYN Compound and ‘Unity House’ our ‘home away from home’. We stopped along the road to buy treats, bananas, and oranges from the roadside vendors. Arriving around 6 pm we were glad to have an opportunity to cook for ourselves at the EYN Jos Unity House. We had many of the comforts of home and wonderful space for the FT to relax in at Unity House. It had been a morning of service to the Widows and the two treks to Lafia, Nassarawa and then to Jos, Plateau.

Take-Away Thought – We had the honor to meet the widows and do the intake interview by filling out the CCEPI form for each widow served. Meeting IDPs that have lost everything makes violence “real’ and puts a life into the pain. A reminder that we are to care for widows and orphans as commanded in James 1:27. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress –

Reflections on the August Fellowship Tour (Part 1)

patby Pat Krabacher

Aug 1, 2016 –  Seven Strangers in the “Big Smoke” but United in the “Land of Beauty”

Seven strangers aka the “CoB 2016 Fellowship Team” met for the first time at noon on Aug 1st, 2016 in the London Heathrow International Terminal 5. Team leader Donna Parcell, daughter Sarah Parcell, Michele Gibbel, Jessie Marsiglio, Katie & Pastor Adam Ulm, and I (Pat Krabacher) had flown thru the night to meet in London, England (nick named the “Big Smoke”). We had a 12-hour layover and needed to meet and then travel to Westminster Abbey (WA) during our layover. Joining up with four other strangers in an International airport when cell phones don’t work and wifi is sporadic is a challenge! (I asked about 5 men in the London airport that day if their name was Adam!) Finding each other at Heathrow was probably “minor miracle #1” and followed swiftly an hour later by admission to Westminster Abbey just 30 seconds before it closed admissions for the day (possibly “minor miracle #2”). 

Our Westminster Abbey walking tour and the Evening Song choral event were memories of great beauty and deep faith of our forefathers and foremothers. All to soon it was time to navigate back to Heathrow using the “Tube” during the tail end of “rush hour” and a closed Tube section undergoing maintenance. We were becoming a team as we navigated our hour long trek back to Heathrow.

Back at Heathrow Terminal 5 we checked our bags, had dinner together before boarding our overnight flight to Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. As we departed the Big Smoke we each pondered our trek into Nigeria and slept fleetingly on the 7-hour flight to Nigeria.

We arrived in the dark at 5:15 am and smoothly passed thru Nigeria Immigration/ Customs! We were welcomed to Nigeria by Markus Gamache & Joshua Ishaya Mamza in the pouring rain (August is the rainy season in Nigeria) – that first hour of being in Nigeria we experienced buckets of heavy rain! Over the next 12 days the Fellowship Team (FT) came to trust completely and love both Markus and Joshua as brothers in Christ.

The 30 min drive from the Abuja airport to the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN) Guest House, near down town Abuja, gave the first indication that we were ‘not in Kansas anymore’ and we took a 2-hour rest in our rooms before meeting up for our first Nigerian meal, a breakfast of instant coffee, fried yams and egg.

aug-fellowship-tourEYN Abuja compound – Sarah, Donna, Markus, Pat, Joshua, Jessie, Michele, Adam & Katie presented Markus and Joshua a Hausa-English ‘We are one body in Christ’ t-shirt to honor them. Photo credit – Pat Krabacher.

 

 

 

Take-Away Thought – As seven strangers in the “Big Smoke” we united together as a team and also with EYN brothers and sisters in the “Land of Beauty”. As individuals of diverse ages, experiences, geography, and sociological views we had committed to a trek thru NE Nigeria – to work together and to encourage our EYN brothers and sisters. Sharing in a 1,000-year-old cathedral adventure, navigating the London Tube, clearing customs in Nigeria, and preparing mentally for our trek to the “Land of Beauty” (nick name for Adamawa state) had united us. Our compassion and respect for each other, for our team lead, Donna Parcell, and for our EYN leader Markus Gamache and his Assistant, Joshua Ishaya grew day by day and taught each of us that we are one body in Christ.

dsc_0594

Nigeria National Mosque, Abuja, Federal capital Territory Photo credit: Donna Parcell – Markus G. (tan), Alh. Ibrahim A. Jega (white), Binta B. (blue) & 2016 FT: Donna, Michele, Mathias, Adam, Sarah, Katie, Pat, and Jessie in front of the Nigeria National Mosque (NNM), Abuja, Nigeria

#2_Aug 2, 2016 – Great Contrasts – But New Friends

Four hours after landing in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, we departed the EYN Abuja Guest House for a day of meetings (this first day, more than most others, challenged our minds and hearts). Our first day in Nigeria was a day of new ideas and new friends from very different situations. After meeting Mrs. Binta Bakari (a Muslim woman who co-founded the Gurku Interfaith settlement that we visited later on our trek) we departed the EYN Abuja compound for the 15 min drive to the Nigeria National Mosque (NNM), Abuja. Our meeting was with the Administrative Secretary of the NNM, Alh. Ibrahim A. Jega.

Imam Jega was very gracious to us and interested in the peace conference the CoB hopes to co-host in NE Nigeria in 2017. He shared with us some specific teachings from the Koran that instructs Mohammed’s followers to love and protect Christians and Jewish peoples.  We removed our shoes and entered the National mosque a place that draws between 5,000 – 15,000 worshippers weekly. An amazing time at the Nigeria’s National Mosque!

Masaka IDP resettlement house   Photo Credit: Michele Gibbel

Masaka IDP resettlement house
Photo Credit: Michele Gibbel

Our hour hour long drive to visit the EYN Masaka Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) resettlement camp was over the WORST road of our trek (in this writer’s opinion). A dirt road that ran uphill off of the main road, it was full of deep ruts and holes that wanted to take the under carriage off our vehicle?!? We bounced and corralled our nerves as this was the first meeting with Boko Haram victims who had fled their homes. We were instructed by our trust worthy guide Joshua that there was a phrase we needed to understand, since we’d be hearing it, especially from the children. White people are called “ba-ture” (means ‘white person’). The children everywhere were either fascinated with the white Batures (and stared at us) or were afraid of us and cried!

Photo credit: Katie Ulm Pat with EYN Internally Displaced children at Masaka Re-settlement Camp

Photo credit: Katie Ulm
Pat with EYN Internally Displaced children at Masaka Re-settlement Camp

At Masaka, we overcame our nerves and began our visit with the people of Masaka. Deborah shyly spoke to me only three words, “We are hungry”. After I collected my thoughts, I put my arm around her shoulders to hug her and walk with her – she was very thin. On our way up the hill to the corn stalk church at Masaka, we passed by her house in the re-settlement camp. She had planted a banana tree when they arrived a year earlier and and joyfully showed me the bunch of bananas growing on the tree. I was comforted to know that soon she would have a source of bananas.  However, several days later my false hope of bananas for

Masaka Corn Stalk Church – before destroyed by storms in Sept 	          Photo credit: Michele Gibbel

Masaka Corn Stalk Church – before destroyed by storms in Sept
Photo credit: Michele Gibbel

Deborah was shattered when I found out that only one bunch is produced on a banana tree before it dies. Deborah’s words were quite a contrast to the National Mosque and to our last appointment of the day, fellowship and dinner with some Abuja EYN brothers and sisters. However, meeting and playing with the children of Masaka, seeing the joy a simple soccer ball brings, and visiting the simple mud brick and corn stalk compounds at Masaka helped us to know the pain of being an IDP.

michelle-gibel-with-women

Photo credit: Michele Gibbel – Michele with two BEST women, Abuja BEST dinner

Upon returning to EYN Guest House, we changed clothes and departed for the sumptuous dinner with 15 Abuja Brethren from Brethren Evangelical Support Trust (BEST). Many warm smiles were shared and delectable foods awaited us as new friends were made. I reconnected with friends from the EYN ZME Women’s Fellowship Choir that toured the US in 2015. The delicious BEST meal was quite a contrast to the IDPs we met at Masaka but, the opulence of the NNM and the generous love of our EYN brothers and sisters represent the building blocks for peace in NE Nigeria. Our first day in                                                                                       Nigeria closed with many thoughts                                                                                           swirling in our dreams that night.

Thought – Meeting IDPs that have lost everything makes violence “real’ and puts a face into the pain. Sandwiched between the opulence of the National Mosque and the sumptuous BEST fellowship meal are families that are blessed to be alive, yet, are likely to struggle for years to come. I carry Deborah’s 3 words and her pain with me now in my heart, she is my sister. Hope endures thru the partnership of Christians and Muslims seeking peace together. Christians and Muslims must pray and work for reconciliation, if peace is to prevail in Nigeria.

 

Livelihoods Empower Many

Praise God for the release of 21 Chibok girls. We continue to lift them up in prayer with the many challenges they will now face. Our disaster work continues on many fronts. Here is a report on some of our livelihood projects.

Livelihoods are Empowering!

         Livelihoods are Empowering!

Two of our Non-Government Organizations are providing Livelihoods to those effected by the Insurgency. This is an incredible gift that gives people a way to help themselves. Businesses that have been provided include:  bean-cake making, grinding machines, peanut processing, sewing machines, knitting machines, computers, soap making, providing seeds and fertilizer as well as goats and chickens.

These Livelihood gifts are such a blessing to those who receive them. 1000 people apply for the 200 businesses that are available. The NGO’s provide training on using the gifts as well as teaching them how to run a business successfully. Then they follow up with the recipients to monitor their success.

One of our NGO’s focused on seeds and fertilizer during the growing season. The other NGO has built centers for the training and graduates 2-4 classes a year. Here are some testimonies and pictures:

Maise Farm

Maize Farm

“Where will I start from, you can testify for yourself how the farm materials helped my farming activities, my farm became the talk of the town especially my maize farm; it has never been like this before.  I am very much grateful to you and to the people that gave you money to help us, may God Almighty continue to bless all of you. Thank you”.

Recipients of Rice seeds and fertilizer.

Recipients of Rice seeds and fertilizer.

“Sincerely speaking, if not because of the farm inputs especially fertilizer, my farm will not produce enough food that can sustain my family throughout the year. I can say that God send you to salvage us from Hunger. Thank you very Much and God bless.’’

 

 

Students learning to sew

Students learning to sew

SEWING & KNITTING at the Yola Livelihood Center 

The Livelihood Center taught the students on how to cut and sew wrappers and skirts. Different styles were shown to them including what is called pencil skirts. After making sure that the students understood it, pieces of material were given to them to practice  using the sewing machine.

Knitting training at the Livelihood Center

Knitting training at the Livelihood Center

The knitting students have learned how to knit babies caps, socks and sweaters.  They can now make cardigans for sale and some of them are already in the business

Help for widows and their children

 

EYN Director of Women's Ministry, Suzan Mark and her assistant. (photo by Carl Hill)

EYN Director of Women’s Ministry, Suzan Mark and her assistant. (photo by Carl Hill)

The Women’s Ministry of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN) is beginning a special project for the many widows that are the result of the Boko Haram violence in Northeast Nigeria. The project is funded by Nigeria Crisis Funds. Over 5000 widows have been identified in the EYN church. Being a widow is very difficult in Nigeria; and since many of the widows are young; they do not have children who can support them. In fact most of them have young children of their own that they are struggling to provide for.

Widows wait for relief materials (photo by Donna Parcell at a CCEPI distribution)

Widows wait for relief materials (photo by Donna Parcell at a CCEPI distribution)

The project will teach 50 widows a skill so that they can start their own business. Also 35 of their children will be given scholarships for school fees. The director of a relief organization in Nigeria reported the following about education, “611 teachers have died as a result of the terrorism in the north east; 19,000 teachers have been displaced, 1500 schools have closed down, and 950,000 children have been denied the opportunity of accessing education.”

Orphans at Favored Sisters School (photo by Donna Parcell)

Orphans at Favored Sisters School (photo by Donna Parcell)

 

The problem is so big and there are so many widows to help, it may seem like we are not doing much, but like the story of the starfish, we are making an incredible difference for some. Imagine hearing the stories of so many and having to select only 50 to help.

 

 

Here are some facts about a few of the women chosen.

Rejoice David from DCC Gwoza, a widow at camp in Maiduguri. Her husband was taken away by Boko Haram to Sambiza, but was slaughtered there when he refused to deny his faith. He left behind 6 children 4 girls and 2 boys as follows:                                     Emmanuel David 18 years, Elizabeth David 15 years, James David 13 years, Sarah David 11 years, Juliana David 8 years, Lilian David 4 years                                                 Rejoice was selected for training in sewing and Elizabeth was chosen for assistance in payment of school fees

Widows (photo by Donna Parcell)

Widows (photo by Donna Parcell)

Sarah John a 27 years old widow at DCC Maiduguri was a Muslim convert who was married to a Christian named John. Her husband was killed after 6 years of marriage by Boko Haram leaving her with 2 children, a boy and a girl. She has been in camp for some years now. Both her parents and that of the husband refused to take care of her because their faith is not the same. We considered her case as special so her two children, (Ayuba John 5 years old and Rifkatu John 3 years old) were selected for scholarship and Sarah requested to join training for sewing, which was granted.

Hannatu Haruna 9 years and Racheal Haruna 7 years are complete orphans. Boko Haram killed both parents and they are now staying with their old grandmother at Kiffi. They were selected for school fees scholarships.

 

Some Highlights – Fellowship Tour August 2016 (Part 1)

Jessie with Carl & Roxane Hill

Jessie with Carl & Roxane Hill

(by Jessie Marsiglio, PSWD Pomona Fellowship CoB)

From America we set off with expectations and ideas that were quickly squelched.  We thought Nigerian life would mimic our sheltered American existences.  Americans MUST have kitchen appliances, good paved roads, uninterrupted utilities and internet, well stocked grocery stores and every other convenience of our everyday life.  But we found no appliances, potholed and muddy roads, intermittent utilities and internet, street/bazaar vendors, garbage routinely piled on the sides and median of the roads, constant military checkpoints.  AND THAT WAS THE FIRST DAY.

But despite all that, all the people we encountered were friendly and loving, helpful, kind and generous.  The poorest of the poor, the homeless in the IDP (internally displaced persons) camps have hope for better days — so much so that the light of God shines in their entire faces and actions.  The Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN) staff and pastors all were hopeful that we would carry their stories back to the States for all to know.  We also met with leaders in the community and heads of non-EYN organizations who befriended us and talked about their efforts and hopes.

Destroyed Bridge

                   Destroyed Bridge

Travel throughout Nigeria was difficult but we had fantastic drivers who avoided (as much as possible) potholes and road blocks and who deflected the military checks.  Evidence of Boka Haram (BH) invasion and Nigerian military actions were still evident on every road.  One specific bridge had been destroyed to halt the BH and to cross it we went down and back upward on 90 degree angles.  Markus jokingly said we should walk the bridge and I took him up on that challenge.  As I got to the bottom of the rubble and started up the other side, I had such a feeling of wonderment, scare, etc.; and I think I must have felt the same as the Nigerians as they first crossed that bridge.

Destroyed and temporary church at Michika

Before the BH, the church at Michika had had three services on the first three Sundays of the month with one combined on the fourth for a combined total of 3000 members.  BH waited until the benediction on that fourth Sunday before shelling the church.  Now the congregation is reduced to 2000 who meet in a tent next to the bombed out church building.   We swore we could still smell the ashes of the burned books in the library. Everyone is looking forward to the reconstruction of the church as they prepare to rebuild in the next few months (drawings of the     plans are posted on the walls). We also visited another damaged church and spoke with the two pastors.  They are holding the congregation together but have no idea when their building will be repaired.  This apparently is the norm for many of the destroyed churches. Check out  http://www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis/action.html to see how to join a workcamp to rebuild churches in Nigeria.

Pictures by Hills, Kendra Harbeck and Sarah Rae Parcell

Summer at Gurku Interfaith Camp

Dr Yakubu, Markus and John Joseph

(l to r) Dr Yakubu, Markus and John Joseph

As reported by John Joseph (Camp coordinator and administrator)

Gurku Crops

Gurku Crops

Summer is rainy season in Nigeria. It’s time for planting. $2500 from Church of the Brethren support provided seeds, fertilizer and herbicides. Thanks to an abundant rainfall, the crops are growing nicely. As the new crops grow, food from last years crop tends to run out. 22 families were really suffering and COB funds were able to provide help. Gurku is a long way from a hospital. There is a clinic built by the Swiss Embassy but it is always a struggle to have enough medicines on hand. There have been four deaths (all women) so far this year. Funds have been used for medicines, hospital visits and funerals.

Vaccines

Vaccines from Zawram Islamic Global Foundation

 

Help from Others –  Zawram Islamic Global Foundation brought vaccines for hepatitis. Marie Stopes Nigeria did some medical tests, Voice of Mathias Group brought bicycles, books, Bibles and mats. A Nigerian engineer brought food items.

Positives from this summer   1)The camp organized meetings and dialogue so Muslims and Christians could meet to address needs in the community. 2) Gifts were given to help Muslim families celebrate Sallah (a big Muslim holiday). 3) A guesthouse was built and partially furnished. 4) Water has been plentiful due to the solar powered pump. 5) Head teacher/ administrator has been relocated to the camp

Never enough medicine

Never enough medicine

Continued Challenges   1) Cost of medical help  2) Distant relatives who have heard of the camp ask for monetary assistance. 3) More  homes are needed to house the numerous families still without a place to live. 4)  More kitchens need to be built. 5) Classrooms for the over 200 pupils  6) Families continue to hear of attacks on relatives in the Madagali and Gwoza area.

Nigeria Crisis Update

Food loaded for delivery

Food loaded for delivery

FOOD DISTRIBUTION  A team of four staff of the EYN Disaster Relief Ministry took food supplies to the Futu District. The team was led by the EYN Director Relief, Rev. Yuguda Z. Mdurwa. Other staff were Acting Coordinator, Rev. Joshua B. Mainu, Mr. Aniya Simon, Accountant and the Driver, Mr. John Haha.  The truck could not reach the initially planned center for distribution because of a stream on the way to the village; but food items were collected by representatives of the Local Churches. District Officials were also present  as the Local Church representatives collected the items for their congregations.

Blocks ready to build the wall at CSS

Blocks ready to build the wall at CSS

WALL FOR COMPREHENSIVE SECONDARY SCHOOL  Blocks are being made to continue the wall around the EYN Secondary School. The wall will aid in security for the over 250 students.

 

 

 

Growing Corn from Seeds Distribution

Growing Corn from Seeds Distribution

SEEDS & FERTILIZER  In June,  corn (maize) seeds and fertilizer were given to over 2000 families. The corn is growing and now bean seeds have been purchased and are being distributed to 3000 families. The beans are planted in August and grow under the corn. We pray for a bountiful harvest.

 

 

August Fellowship Group from the USA visits Favored Sister’s School – While spending two weeks walking along side our brothers and sisters in Nigeria, the latest fellowship group visited one of our sponsored schools. This school is the full time home to 120 orphans.

Favored sisters Aug visit

Singing and praising God with the children

Favored sisters Aug visit2

Playing games

Favored sisters Aug visit3

Coloring and engaging with the children

A church is people stuck together by love

Zander and Joshua

Zander and Joshua

Church in Uba by Zander Willoughby

Last Sunday, while staying at Kulp Bible College near Kwarhi, Adamawa State, Nigeria, Joshua, my travelling companion, and I got up and headed to church in Uba, Joshua’s home church. The road on which EYN headquarters and KBC sit is, by Nigerian standards (especially Adamawa State) fairly good, meaning that you can drive in a fairly straight line and not spend the whole time driving from ditch to ditch to avoid the potholes. This road, however, sings. The road has a slight hum to it. Our driver for the week, Bulus, told us that the road now sings because, during the insurgency, Boko Haram drove a huge APC (Armoured Personnel Carrier) down the road as they ransacked the area of Maraba Mubi and crushed the layers under the road.

The drive to Uba takes about 15 minutes (it would be 10 if it weren’t for all the military checkpoints). We turned down a dirt road squeezed between to walls and spent another five minutes or so weaving between goats, huts, compounds, and potholes. One the way back to the church, I saw my first monkey outside of a zoo!!!

Old church - Mufa A

Old church – Mufa A

When we got to the church, L.C.C. Mufa A, the people outside were very excited to have a guest visit with them. We walked into the church compound and saw what was probably the most bittersweet sight of my trip. On the right side of compound was a pile of rubble around a cement slab, what used to be L.C.C. Mufa A. On the left side was a building that, if it wasn’t Sunday and full of people, I’d assume was a pole barn. This is the new L.C.C. Mufa A. The bitter part is obvious, the sweet part was what happened inside. We were welcomed graciously inside (in true Nigerian fashion, we arrived late) and it was insisted that we sit right up front by the pulpit. They asked me to introduce myself and tell everyone why I was there. I told them that I was there to experience the resilience of the EYN church in such trying times and to extend a loving hand from the Church of the Brethren in America. Joshua translated it into Hausa for me.

New chruch - Mufa A

New chruch – Mufa A

If you’d been sitting in that worship service, you’d never know that we were sitting a few feet from their burned out church. Their tied together poles and scrap sheet metal might as well have been marble pillars. They sing with their heart. The sound of their drums filled the room and probably carried all the way back to Kwarhi. I was told later that the sermon was very good. I barely understand any Hausa, so I spent the sermon time reading through the Sermon on the Mount, wondering how Jesus would preach on non-violent resistance to today’s terrorism. Since many of the churches can’t afford to pay their pastors full salary, they had a special offering after the service for the pastor and his wife to give them gifts and blessings. It was a beautiful scene with love and support for all. In the end, a church isn’t a collection of bricks stuck together by mortar. A church is people, stuck together by love.​

Worship Time

Worship Time

The Joys of Working for Nigeria

by Carl Hill

One of the real joys my wife and I have experienced over the last four years is just being a part of something bigger than ourselves. Our involvement in Nigeria has been a blessing for us like no other (outside our children and grandchildren). It comes down to the people. We have been bowled over by both the generosity and concern of the American Brethren and warmth and hospitality of the Nigerian Brethren. Over the last few years we have had the privilege of sending over 30 people from this country to walk alongside their Nigerian brothers and sisters. We are not alone in our appreciation of the Nigerian people. Without exception, everyone that has gone to Nigeria has returned to this country with a different perspective on life and faith.

Middle Pennsylvania District

Middle Pennsylvania District

Also, over the last several years, we have visited numerous Church of the Brethren congregations speaking about our involvement in Nigeria. Because of the Church’s concern for Nigeria over $4 million dollars has been raised in support of the people of northeast Nigeria. We have spoken about Nigeria at churches, district conferences, schools and colleges. One of my favorite pictures of support was taken at the Middle Pennsylvania District Conference last year. Everyone in attendance is enthusiastically lifting holy hands in recognition of our Brethren in Nigeria.

Amazingly, the same type of enthusiasm greets us when we go to Nigeria. One of our favorite Nigerians (one among so many) is Markus Gamache. He is known in EYN as “Jauro.” This is a Nigerian term that means “community organizer.” He is really a frustrated but still hopeful politician. He knows his way around every situation that we have seen him confronted with – from questionable traffic stops on the road to choices of food that visiting Americans will eat to visa applications to get us into the country – Markus handles them all!

Markus with Sarah Robert and Roxane

Markus with Sarah Robert and Roxane

What a heart he has for his people! There doesn’t seem to be a person who cares more and does more than Markus, especially at this crucial time in Nigeria. Many people have turned to “Jauro” for help in one way or another. Markus has even started an inter-faith community (both Muslims and Christians) to house hundreds of displaced people from the northeast in a safer area near the capital city of Abuja. Church of the Brethren is partnering with Markus in this venture.

On our most recent visit to Nigeria we ran into a lady with a special problem. This lady, Sara Robert, a converted Muslim, recently graduated from Kulp Bible College. Unfortunately, like so many who have graduated from KBC in the last few years there is no place for her to go. For the men there is no place to go due to the glut of pastors and scarcity of churches. Women, on the other hand, still have no official leadership role in the church (outside of being involved in women’s ministry). To make matters worse for Sara, after graduating she had no home to return to. Our KBC contact, another of our favorites, Joshua Ishaya, asked if there wasn’t something we could do for her? That’s when Markus stepped in. He suggested that she relocate to his inter-faith community near Abuja. He believes that Sara can serve a teacher/principal for the new school that is being built for the hundreds of children living at the camp.  

I could go on and on about Markus and his wonderful ministry to everyone he comes in contact with but. . .

Here’s one last story that comes to mind. Last year on one of our trips to Nigeria we had the chance to go to Taraba State’s capital of Jalingo. Jalingo is located three grueling hours south and west of Yola. During the insurgency many EYN members fled to Jalingo in search of a safe haven. Markus took us there as EYN was considering purchasing some land to build a displaced persons camp. We went just to look at a particular plot of land. When we got to Jalingo we stopped off at one of the new worship centers for displaced EYN members. Waiting for us there were hundreds of people. Obviously word got out that we were coming and the people had gathered to greet us and possibly receive something from us in the way of food and/or supplies. We were totally unprepared for this large welcoming committee. We were fed lunch in the pastor’s office and asked to greet the people who had been waiting for us for at several hours. I cannot tell you the guilt we felt as we addressed this group of hungry and needy folks. We took some pictures and did our best to greet them in the name of Church of the Brethren.

Thankful people in Jalingo

Thankful people in Jalingo

Finally, when we returned to the quiet of the pastor’s office we started to search our pockets for money to see if we could leave this group with something. We could only scrounge up a very meager amount of money. In frustration we asked Markus if he had any money on him. Leave it to Markus; he had over 100,000 naira on him. Markus always travels with some back-up money and he also felt that it was worth contributing all of it to these abandoned brothers and sisters and their children. When he tells the story he always gives me full credit for considering the gifts we gave those people, but I know different. Markus had someone go down to the marketplace and buy beans and corn enough for each family to leave with something. It was one of the most rewarding things that we have been part of in our outreach to the struggling people of Nigeria – thanks to Markus.

Maiduguri was an amazing experience

Reflections by Zander

Zander

Zander

I spent five days in Maiduguri. For the three days of trauma healing workshops, I spent each day with a different group. The leaders were Dlama Kagula, Esther (I missed her last name, but the has a master’s from the UK), and Rev. Toma. That was an amazing experience in itself. LCC Maiduri Centre is HUGE. It was especially amazing to see how the Rwandan HROC model of trauma healing was adapted to fit the Nigerian experience.

Each day, I saw wider smiles; one could really see that many of these faces didn’t remember how to smile. I did my best to remind those in the workshops (and those facilitating) that they’re not alone, that people all over the world are thinking about them, and that the Church of the Brethren in America, especially, is with them. That brought a warm response and was a much-needed message for them to here. 

Nigeria-Borno State-Maiduguri

Nigeria – Borno State – Maiduguri

Maiduguri itself is a very interesting city. The roads are good, and wide, and maintained. There’s ample evidence of city planning. There were sidewalks and flood management ditches. It felt much more like the Middle East than it did to Jos and Abuja. It was also much cleaner than the other places I’ve been (although, the rivers still run with trash and every empty lot is a small landfill). The electrical system was bombed two years ago, so the entire city runs on either solar or generators. Also, it basically under full military occupation. It felt a lot like the West Bank at times, but it was nice to know the soldiers were actually there to protect the people this time. There was an attempted suicide bombing at a mosque in town my first night, two guys blew themselves up early and no one was seriously injured. I honestly only knew about it because I was checking the local news while I was there. I made sure to share it on social media so that no one else in the US that knows I’m here would find it first and worry.

IDP School at LCC Polo

IDP School at LCC Polo

Maiduguri has 22 IDP camps in it. We visited two of them and a school that some EYN IDPs started for IDP kids. They started the school because the government schools in the camps are Islamic schools, which makes sense, I don’t think we can really blame the government too much for that. It seems that EYN, in particular, is very adamant that their kids go only to Christian-based schools. So, since the government isn’t contributing to the IDP school in LCC Polo’s parking lot, UNICEF, UNHCR, Save the Children, the EU, Japan, EYN, and CoB have all contributed to this school of over 700 children with all volunteer teachers. One of the camps we visited, which is about the size of LCC Utako’s compound, houses 7,456 IDPs. We were going to visit more, but a lot of them have recently added people so they didn’t want to take me without a security detail and there wasn’t time to put one together (so the story goes). I spent most of my time with Kadala, we had a good time and had good conversation about trauma healing, the HROC model, and sustainable relief.

Smiles at the end of the Trauma workshop

Smiles at the end of the Trauma workshop

One concern that Dlama did bring to me was that the Rwandans weren’t all in IDP camps when they went through trauma healing. The Nigerian adaptation is supposed to bring tangible relief the week before trauma healing to fulfill some basic needs in the hierarchy of needs so that people can focus on the trauma healing process. This doesn’t always fully happen and, even when it does, there a real difficulty of participants finding transportation to the workshops since most of them are in IDP camps and have to go a distance to get to the workshops. Dlama ended up paying for the transportation of a few participants out of pocket. Also, everyone thought it was hilarious when I ate egusi soup with my hands with them.

The only hang-up I had in Maiduguri was an argument I had with immigration when I was flying out who claimed that I should have a work visa instead of a tourist visa. I must’ve answered a question wrong without thinking or something. I eventually got him laughing and got him to let it go. It also took a while for me to convince them that I wasn’t U.S. Army, U.N., or a Journalist when I got there. That was pretty funny (: