Food Distributions continue during “Lean Period”

Food Distribution inside the destroyed church at Gulak.

The months from July until late October are called the “Lean Period” because people’s food from last year’s harvest is almost gone and the new crop is not yet ready. The Boko Haram insurgency has compounded this problem with a decreased ability to even plant crops. Statistics from United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Nigeria) states that 8.5 Million people in the area are still in need of humanitarian assistance.

The EYN Disaster Ministry Response team has been very active in the last few months with eight food distributions. A lot of planning and effort goes into providing an organized distribution to around 300 families at a time. Food must be bought in the local market, loaded on trucks and taken to the distribution point (often a church). The district leaders must have made a list of needy families in their area and contacted them to convene for the distribution. There is a lot of waiting as the process unfolds. There is the visual reminder of the insecurity in the area and the devastation that has affected their lives when they receive the food in a destroyed church. There is happiness in receiving the much needed food. Please continue to pray for the people of Northeast Nigeria.

Organization is the key.

Waiting for the food distribution.

Happy recipient of food supplies.

 

Literacy and Empowerment for Women

Suzan Mark leads Literacy Program

A literacy program is underway at some of the EYN Relocation Villages. “Literacy is a gateway to crisis recovery and to live a better life.”, reported Suzan Mark, EYN Director of Women’s Ministry.  It has become especially important to displaced women living around the Federal Capital Territory where they interact with many educated people. This literacy training has allowed women to freely interact with those in the nearby communities. They are seeing first hand the importance of education, especially for girls. The program will continue over the next eight months with a Literacy staff person assigned to each group. Chalkboards and chalk were provided for ongoing classes and the women were given text books, pens, pencils, rulers and exercise books.

Livelihood Training

Another part of the ongoing work of the EYN Women’s Ministry is a the Widow Livelihood Development Program. Hundreds of young widows have been invited to seminars where they learn skills in income generation and business start-up. They were also given health tips and messages about child protection. (Over 4,000 widows have been identified in the region; most have been widowed as a result of the Boko Haram violence.) Each attender of the seminar was given just over $100 to start their own business. This will give them a sense of responsibility, help them to be self-reliant and help them learn to save for the future. Below are some pictures of the women receiving their start-up capital.

Another successful work camp

Welcome to a Nigeria Workcamp by Peggy Gish

August/September workcamp

“Aiki! Aik! Aiki!” men called out from time to time, “Work! work! work! (in Hausa). Under a hot sun, a continuous line of men carried cement blocks up a wooden ramp with nailed on rungs, to the second floor of what will be a new office building for the EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)  staff, at the church headquarters in Kwarhi, in Adamawa State.  On the second floor, groups of men mixed up mortar, and lay block to form the walls and doorways of the new building.

This was the first week of a two-week workcamp (August 17-September 3) co-sponsored by EYN and the Church of the Brethren.  About 17-20 Nigerian men came each week from churches to help with the building. Three of us, Johnathan Ogburn, Dana McNeil, and Peggy Gish, representing the Church of the Brethren in the U.S., joined in and were warmly welcomed.

Working together

The construction of this building was started in 2014, before Boko Haram looted and damaged the staff buildings.  Because the EYN staff and other people from the area fled and temporarily based its headquarters in Jos, the construction stopped.  This is the second workcamp to work on this building since the EYN staff returned in 2016.

When asked why they came to the workcamp, the men, who left their jobs at home to work here, gave answers such as the following:  “This is a way I can serve God.”  “When people drive by, I want them to see a church whose headquarters show the dedication and support of its people.”  “After Boko Haram’s attempt to destroy the church, we want to rebuild and make it strong.”

Peggy and children carrying sand and cement

The camaraderie and festive mood of the group attracted a number of boys and girls—children of EYN staff and others living near the compound—who joined in the work. They filled metal dishpans with sand and carrying them up to the second floor to be mixed with concrete.  Two of the older boys proudly found that they could carry on their heads or shoulders half blocks. There would be moments, however, when the children or adults erupted into play.  Suddenly the children would be flying paper airplanes around the site or playing impromptu games.

As the time went on, there were more playful moments among the men—joking around, working to music, or tossing plastic water bags to or at each other that burst. During a break young men spontaneously formed a percussion band and sang together.  Another time the words in Hausa to “Holy, holy, holy” or “Count Your Blessings” could be heard through the building as they worked.

Long after the participants go home, we expect the impact of this workcamp to extend beyond the almost 5,000 cement blocks that had been trucked in and mortared in place. Forged together in these two weeks will be the ongoing friendships across tribes and cultures, and increased dedication to and joy of serving their church.  The work here will not only strengthen EYN as a church, but stand as a symbol of hope—as out of the crisis it rebuilds and is renewed.

Testimonies from recipients of Disaster Aid

The broad scale of assistance given through the EYN Disaster Response Ministry in partnership with Church of the Brethren and Mission 21 includes: food, home repairs, trauma workshops, widows livelihood development, and fruit trees planted at a relocation center.

Here are some of the testimonies of the beneficiaries.

Woman receives food assistance for her family

Food – Sabastine remarked, “We thank God and thank EYN for assisting us with food items as we have been away from our homes for a long time. This food with benefit 6 of my family members.” Another person responded with thanks saying,  We are in a difficult situation especially in this season before the harvest.”

 

 

Awa’s home

Awa‘s two room home was re- roofed and she was very grateful but also stated that only women sleep in the houses. The men sleep in hiding in the bush due to the fear of continued attacks at night.

 

 

Widow at livelihood seminar

A seminar was held for widows with children. 101 widows from 19 districts were trained in income generation and given seed money to start their own businesses. Victoria, a mother of five testified, “God is indeed the husband of the widows and that He will come to the aid of those who diligently seek him.” Another mother of six, Adama, had been crying before the start of the seminar because her farm was in great need of fertilizer to insure a good harvest to feed her family. She was shocked when she received the money and said, “God still works miracles.” The seminar was a great encouragement to all the widows reminding them that are not limited in what they can do. The money given to start businesses was very much appreciated.

Testimonies continue to come in from the Trauma Workshops held around the northeast. The workshops span three days and are typically conducted for 30-35 participants. Each workshop has a tremendous impact on the participants. Here are some of their stories.

Participants of a Trauma Workshop

Mary –  I was abducted by Boko Haram from Bazza to Gulak where we were kept for many months. My only daughter was taken away from me by them up to now, I cant sleep and every night is a night mare. In addition there were false accusation over cloth Boko Haram gave us during captivity, people said that I stole it in the community after returning. But after the second day things began to change for my good. The woman who accused me  of stealing the cloth, reconciled with me by coming to my shop for sewing, I am able to speak and be heard among my people for the first time in 4 years. I have learnt to forgive all. This is my happiest moment and I am healed completely thank you!

Trauma Workshop

Jummai – Since Boko Haram killed my Beloved Husband I sincerely became traumatized in life for about 5 years. From this workshop my life is getting better now, my trauma has reduced,  thank you very much for this workshop.

Chinamu – I came here with heavy heart due to trauma, but after I understand the importance of forgiveness. I learned to forgive people who offend me, from this workshop I will go and reconcile with my neighbor so that I can have sound sleep.

We continue to pray for Northeast Nigeria, for those who have suffered from the insurgency and for the Disaster Ministry team as they bring assistance and healing.

Dr. Rebecca Dali named for Sergio Viera De Mello Award

What is the Sergio Vieira de Mello Award?

Sergio Vieira de Mello was a man with a long career in the United Nations. He was deeply involved with humanitarian issues and a strong supporter of those working to achieve peace in conflicts and war situations around the globe.  The Foundation started in his name has decided to give an award every two years. The award is intended to draw world attention to the unnoticed efforts made by an individual, group or an organization that has done something special and unique to reconcile people and parties in conflict. Candidates must be authentic, verifiable, community-based entities operating in areas of conflict and as such could be refugees, internally displaced persons or persons affected by conflict. The 2017 Award is being given to Dr. Rebecca Dali and her Non-profit agency, Center for Caring, Empowerment and Peace Initiative (CCEPI). 

Partner Profile

Church of the Brethren began working with Dr. Rebecca Dali, Executive Director of Center for Caring Empowerment and Peace Initiative (CCEPI), in January of 2014. Missionaries from the United States church, Carl and Roxane Hill, were teaching with Dr. Rebecca in Nigeria when she began distributing food and clothing to displaced persons living around Kulp Bible College.

Providing prayer and support for Nigeria at Annual Conference 2014

In the summer of 2014, Dr. Rebecca was a guest representing the Nigerian church, Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN), at Annual Conference of the U.S. Church of the Brethren.  She spoke powerfully about the plight of her fellow Nigerians and the crisis in Nigeria. Following her spirit filled plea, the Church of the Brethren pledged support and aid to  the Nigerian church, NGO’s working in Nigeria (like CCEPI), and those affected by the violence in Northeast Nigeria.

When EYN headquarters was overrun by Boko Haram in October of 2014, church leadership was relocated to Jos.  Dr. Rebecca accompanied her husband, Samuel Dali, then EYN President and she immediately began helping those displaced. A much-needed food distribution was held at the EYN Annex Headquarters in Jos.

Food Distribution in November 2014

Early in the Crisis, CCEPI concentrated on providing food and household supplies. Soon it was evident that there was a great need for the numerous widows and orphans created by the violent crisis. Under Dr. Rebecca’s leadership, CCEPI has created three Skills Acquisition Centers that teach a skill and provide each participant with the materials to start their own business. Through her organization, Dr Rebecca has also provided trauma healing, housing repairs, education for orphans, livestock for widows and moral support to those in need.

Wall of Healing displayed in Tampa Florida

 

Dr. Rebecca and CCEPI have been tireless in collecting data from the families affected by the violence. Although this is time consuming, it helps tell the full story of this crisis and honors the dead and their families. At the 2015 Church of the Brethren’s Annual Conference in Tampa, Florida, Dr. Rebecca’s data was displayed as a “Wall of Healing”. This wall consisted of 17 large banners with the names of over 10,000 victims of the violence sweeping through Northeast Nigeria.

Graduation at one of the Skill Acquisition Centers

Dr. Rebecca has been able to mobilize and organize CCEPI to provide food and supplies to the most vulnerable often at great personal risk. Her passion, and the quality of her work has attracted the attention and support of numerous sponsors to continue and expand these efforts. Her boundless energy and tireless work alongside her staff has provided assistance to men, women, children, Muslims, Christians, and especially widows and orphans. It is a privilege for Church of the Brethren to be in partnership with Dr. Rebecca and her outstanding organization as she pours her life into helping her fellow countrymen during this challenging time.

 

June Disaster Projects

In June, the Disaster Response Ministry of EYN was busy.

Food Distributions

They delivered food to 400 families in some of the hardest hit districts. A pastor in the area shared, “Last week, EYN headquarters gave us fertilizer and seed which we distributed to our members, today they brought us food items, this gives us joy! Truly, our main problem here is that we are prevented from farming, so no food and people are suffering.”

 

Rescued Mom and baby

After being rescued, a family held captive for several years was relocated to one of our newly built villages. The family consists of a mother and four children (ages 17, 8, 6, and 4 months.)

In addition, medical help was brought to a camp in Maiduguri where there are over 500 children under the age of 5.

Soybeans were planted as part of the special project designed to produce income along the value chain.

 

 

Solar panels were installed at Yola camp providing free water for them.

Please continue to pray for the EYN Disaster Ministry as it helps its people in many ways!

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.

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.

 

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