Resilience amidst staggering needs

Early in June, Carl and Roxane Hill along with Kucheli Shankster Beecham and her son Carter had an opportunity to visit the ongoing work of the Nigeria Crisis Response.

When we visited the “camp” or Relocation Village in Yola, we were greeted by a large group with songs of welcome and introductions. They proudly took us around their new village and showed us their homes. When this village was first built it was far from surrounding homes but the area is growing and now they have others around them. They have built a fence around the property to keep nomads and their cows from coming through the village. There is a solar powered water source and some surrounding lands for planting.

Yes, the people have a safe place to live but they still miss their lives back home. Most of these Internally Displaced Persons are from the Gwoza area where Boko Haram is still in control and they cannot return home. There are many challenges to living in a new village; neighbors are very close by, there is not enough land to plant all the food needed for the upcoming year, there is no school building for the children, the temporary church was blown down in the spring rains and so on.

As we prepared to leave this new Relocation Village, the women handed us a list of concerns and items they needed.  A woman from one of the Yola churches was traveling with us and she took the list; hoping her church would reach out to this new community.

Let us continue to pray for Nigeria and all those living in Relocation Villages. (2 Million people in Northeast Nigeria are still displaced and cannot return home.) Pray also for the EYN Disaster Ministry as they try to meet the many needs that are a direct result of the Boko Haram insurgency.

Wells benefit Christian and Muslim communities

EYN Disaster Ministry put in 2 wells and 2 bore holes around Shaffa and Kwajaffa area. Many wells were destroyed during the occupation by Boko Haram. These water sources will serve 300 families each. At one site, the majority of the people accessing the water are Internally Displaced Persons from the Gwoza area (they are mainly farmers who cannot return to their homes.) At another area, the well will be used by mostly Muslim families. Peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians is one of the goals for Northeast Nigeria. This water source put in by the church is a big step toward maintaining peace.

Food, medical care, school fees, and home repairs are among March activities

Food Distribution at the Yola Relocation camp.                              Patience, a widow and mother of 8, expressed her thankfulness to the Disaster Ministry. “You can see my tears of joy for what your help means to me and my children.”

 

 

Educational assistance for 56 children. School fees were paid for both elementary and high school students. Most high schools are boarding schools with students living at the school. Thousands have been widowed by the Boko Haram insurgence and they cannot afford to send their children to school. The mothers are very thankful for the assistance.

Re-roofing of burned homes continues for the most vulnerable. “We never thought of assistance coming to us this way. (20 homes in the area were given new roofs) We continue to have challenges including lack of good water and fear when going to our farms.”

 

Medical help was given to around 400 persons. Adequate medical care is still unavailable without traveling long distances and then most cannot afford to pay for the care. EYN Disaster Ministry medical staff helped 5000 persons last year.

Please continue to pray for Nigeria and donations are greatly appreciated.

Special Relief Benefits 658 Muslim and Christian families

Markus and others bring greetings and food

Gurku Interfaith community lies on the outskirts of Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. Muslims and Christians live and work side by side. They are Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) who are from the Madagali and Gwoza areas of Northeast Nigeria, the area most affected by the Boko Haram Insurgency.

In December and January, news of various attacks reached the Gurku community. Since communication to this remote area is so difficult, the community decided to send volunteers to find out first hand what had been happening. Here is what they found:  Nine villages had been attacked, 17 people killed, 39 homes burned, 28 businesses destroyed, and five villages had suffered looting of personal belongings and food supplies. With this devastating report, a committee was formed to plan a relief effort to the area. The committee included elders and youths from both faiths. Nigeria Crisis Funds were able to provide $7,500 for the project.

Check points along the way

How do you get help to areas where it is almost impossible to travel? How do you let the remote areas know that help is coming? Who will be willing to travel to the area to take the relief? How do we get help to the most vulnerable? The committee dealt with all these logistical questions. Three zones were designated to get the relief. The recipients of the relief were chosen from among the neediest. It was determined that 74 families who had lost loves ones would be given cash support. 116 bags of corn would be divided among 580 families. The corn was purchased from nearby markets. Two vehicles and local hunters were engaged to transport the corn. Help was secured from military and security personnel.

Recipients at Shuwa Zone

After all the preparation, it was time to actually enter this highly unstable area and get the food and money to the people. Markus Gamache, one of the founders of the Gurku Interfaith community, was invited to participate and take the relief to the three zones of Shuwa, Gulak, and Madagali.

Here are some of his reflections from the trip:

“I was given one Hilux truck full of hunters and we went speeding into those areas. We could only stop for ten to twenty minutes to deliver the goods and encourage the people. We sped through villages that were dried up and in ruins with only a few people in the entire place. When we finally reached Madagali, where I had not been since May 2014, the only cars or motor bikes I saw belonged to security agents. I thank God I was even able to see my mother who is now living in Madagali. The entire trip was tension filled; there were four checkpoints where we had to get out and walk for some ways before getting back in the vehicle. As we drove through the villages, I saw people waving to me with big smiles on their faces, but this brought tears to my weak heart. These are my people and they are not free. How can I live comfortably in my home when so many are suffering?”

Corn ready to be distributed

This project was only obtainable by the huge effort of the committee from Gurku, Markus Gamache, and countless other volunteers along the way. To receive the aid, people had to travel quite a distance to reach one of the three distribution points. Plans were also made in each zone to cover transportation of some of the corn to remote areas that were not accessible. In all, 658 families were assisted. The families who received cash got about $30 each and they were very grateful. They said the cash would sustain them for months by helping purchase food, provide travel to fleeing families or pay for medical services. The families who received corn were also extremely thankful. Some of these families had not eaten for three or four days due to recent attacks.

Thank you to everyone for their continued support of Nigeria Crisis Response! Without your help, this special distribution would not have been possible.

January Nigeria Workcamp Reflections

By Tim Joseph (Pictures by Pat Krabacher)

Tim Joseph at the workcamp

It is certainly a profound and life-changing experience to visit Nigeria and work and fellowship with the Nigerian Brethren.  I had previously been part of a work camp in February, 2009, (just months before the emergence of Boko Haram) and my experiences then have been a real touchstone in my life ever since.  I went this time with my wife Wanda, and I gave special attention and thought to changes in Nigeria in the intervening nine years.  I am fully aware that I can only see the surface and maybe one or two layers beneath, and that I carry my own mindset and preconceptions that color everything I see.  So here some highly subjective thoughts:

The Nigerians we worked, played, traveled and worshiped with are for the most part as hospitable, optimistic, fun-filled and humorous as I remembered.  Their faith in the goodness and protection of God is strong and deep.  I believe I saw more sadness in more eyes than I saw nine years ago, which is to be expected from the brutality and losses they have suffered, but their resilience and determination to live happily and trust in God is amazing, to say the least, to this American.

Working side by side

Working side by side

 

 

 

 

 

 

The actual work we American Brethren did in building foundations for that huge church in Michika was negligible, considering the scope of the project and the fact that almost all the work is done by simple muscle and sweat.  But there is no doubt our presence was extremely encouraging, inspiring and soul-filling to the people there, for they told us of their appreciation countless times and in many ways.  Many people told us that our just being there eased their fear.  Folks often commented on the great sacrifice we had made, leaving our comfortable, safe homes and traveling to a place so rough and dangerous.  I didn’t feel that way at all, of course, and felt the deepest gratitude and joy to be so well taken care of, so loved, not to mention just getting to be in Africa!

We listened to a lot of stories; that is probably the most important work we did.  Hair-raising, heartbreaking stories often.  One young man at Michika, Elisha Bitrus Sengere II, told and wrote down for me the story of his escape by motorbike the Sunday morning, 7 September 2014 when the terrorists stormed into Michika shooting and throwing bombs and the people ran to the mountains, to their homes, some to their deaths.  We visited many churches and bible schools which had been destroyed and were in various stages of rebuilding.  There are many widows and orphans.  We stayed at Kulp Bible College, at Kwarhi, which the terrorists had invaded and vandalized, but not destroyed, and we traveled an hour each day to Michika.  On that daily trip we went through nine military checkpoints and crossed two bomb-collapsed bridges.  For all that, life and commerce do seem to go on fairly normally in that region these days.  (But what do I know?)

The Nigerian Brethren’s relation/stance toward Muslims is complicated.  The church is remarkably faithful to Jesus’ teaching of loving and forgiving our enemies.  I can’t even imagine Americans being so faithful and obedient.  At the same time, there is a whole lot of bitterness and resentment toward Muslims in Nigerian Brethren I was with.  In many places in Nigeria Christians are second-class citizens.  Nigeria is the only country with roughly equivalent numbers of Muslims and Christians.  They have to get along.  Add to that five hundred different languages and hundreds of different tribes, as well as castes….  It is a rough place to have a nation.  Is it any wonder the church is so vital to our brothers and sisters of the EYN?  Pray for them.  Pray hard.

I had the opportunity to go to Chibok for a short visit, where I never dreamed I would be able to go.  Markus Gamache had some business up there one Saturday and took Sharon Franzen and I along.  I had visited in 2009 and had vivid memories.  The military were not happy that we foreigners were there.  We went to the Bible School to investigate the location for a bore hole they are planning to dig, and we visited a church and a family nearby.  Some huge trees which had provided shade and a gathering place at the Bible School had been cut down by the army as some kind of military precaution.  I know there are much deeper harms that have been done at Chibok, but it was painful to see those dead trunks in the hot sun.  War is the work of the Devil, no doubt about it.

US workcamp participants

Another day after work we visited Lassa, where again I had thought I would not be able to go.  It was kind of a spur of the moment trip, and we traveled a rough dirt road through forest and bush from Michika to Lassa.  I had spent a couple of days there in 2009 and two boys had adopted me and hung with me the whole time–Siliarnad and Paul.  I had no way of knowing what had happened to them when Boko Haram overran Lassa, but I knew teenage boys would have been prime targets for killing or kidnapping.  We arrived at Lassa EYN #1 church (which was rebuilt by Muslim-dominated Borno State–there’s a story there which I do not know) and there were few people in the church compound, but there was a boy sitting alone in a large courtyard playing a drum.  In conversation with the boy I soon discovered that he is a younger brother of Siliarnad.  Siliarnad was off in Yola taking a college entrance exam and Paul was alive and well in the town.  Some days God just takes a direct hand.

That’s enough for now.  Get me going and it’s hard to stop….      Tim Joseph

New Program for high schoolers at Favored Sister’s School

Founder Na’omi Mankilik

Nigeria Crisis Response has been sponsoring the Favored Sister’s School in Jos, Nigeria since January 2015.The school was founded by Na’omi MANKILIK along with a Nigerian women’s organization called Favored Sister’s Christian Fellowship.  The school was started for the many orphans and displaced persons that resulted from Boko Haram insurgency. At first, 60 orphans were housed on the large piece of property and an addition 60 students were picked up daily and brought to the school. The first classes went from pre-school through 6th grade. The school has since expanded to 263 students, pre-school through high school. There are now 240 orphans living at the school. Favored Sister’s School has been working hard to bring quality education to these students. It employs displaced teachers and has a pastor and wife that live with the orphans. There is real care for the whole student, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

High School Students

Christian Aid Ministries (from Ohio) (CAM) has partnered with Church of the Brethren and has another program in place in Nigeria. When they visited Favored Sister’s School, they began to wonder what the older orphans would do when they left school. They have started a  program on the orphanage property to teach these youth an occupational skill for the future. Tailoring, Shoemaking and  Carpentry  will be  taught as a 12 month course. Skilled locals have been employed for each trade and they teach a half day course (3) days a week.

Carpenters in training are making desks

The program is well underway. The sewing class has moved from practicing on paper to sewing outfits for themselves. Shoemakers have made and sold over 40 pairs of shoes. The carpenters made 40 desks for the school and are now making couches they can sell to help run the school. Thank you CAM for the dream and for helping it come to fruition.

Students at Favored Sister’s School (Photo by Jon Ogburn)

For less than $150 per youth, you could help sponsor the program. The students will be able to learn a vocation and then will graduate the program with a sewing machine or the basic hand tools of their own that will equip them to support themselves. Check can be made to Church of the Brethren, with Nigeria Crisis – Favored Sisters in the memo line.

Please continue to pray for the students, teachers and administrators of Favored Sister’s School.

 

 

Disaster Team Coordinates Housing Repairs in Remote Areas

Home needing repair

As we know, many of the Ekklesiayar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN) churches were destroyed by fire during the Boko Haram insurgency. Many homes were also burned and destroyed. EYN Disaster Team has been working to re-roof the houses of the most vulnerable. Now that it is dry season, the housing repairs are in full gear. 57 homes were recently re-roofed in some remote areas.

 

Roofing supplies on the truck

Disaster team reported, “There were a lot of challenges because of the distance to the hilly remote villages. People participated voluntarily to carry the materials from where the truck stopped and to trek about 10 kilometers to the villages. The housing repair is 100% complete at Gwallam and Wagdang. This project has touched the hearts of even some unbelievers and they confess that they are ready to accept Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. The carpenter succeeded in roofing 57 instead of 50 houses as planned.”

Those who benefited from the repairs are extremely grateful.

 

CCEPI graduates 119 students from 3 Livelihood Centers

Dr. Rebecca Dali

Dr. Rebecca Dali is the founder and executive director of the Non-profit called Center for Caring Empowerment and Peace Initiative (CCEPI). For several years the Church of the Brethren has been providing funds for CCEPI’s work. The last two years we have sponsored three Livelihood Centers in Jos, Yola, and Michika. The students are either widows or orphans (Muslims and Christians) who have no way to support themselves. The attend classes for nine months at the Centers and are trained in computer, sewing, or knitting and taught skills for running a successful business. At the graduation, the students are given a computer, sewing or knitting machine and sent out to start their own businesses.

2017 Graduation Ceremony

This fall 119 students graduated in joyful ceremonies that included dancing, singing and some tears. In addition to the specific training, all the students learn how to make shampoo, lotion and dish soap that they can use or sell. The students have all been traumatized in one way or another so they form close bonds and are an informal support group. During the nine months at the Livelihood training center, they also have a chance to tell their stories and these are written down.

Here are stories from two participants:

Hajara

HAJARA – On the 06-08-2012 my husband, Abubakar, of the Nigerian Army Rukuba Cantonment was drafted to Military for peace keeping. He spent almost four years in this exercise. From time to time he would collect a pass which enabled him come and see me and the children.

0n 10-7-2016 in the morning some soldiers came to my block and told me that on 10-6-2016 boko-haram attacked the Military unit in Sambisa Forest and killed Officers/Men and that my husband was among those killed. I just burst into tears and fainted.

His death has left me with five children to look after. His death benefit is yet to be worked out so life has not been easy for me and the children. I am very thankful to have been selected to attend the CCEPI Skills Acquisition Center.

Esther learning to sew

ESTHER – I lived in Gava II with by mother and siblings. On the 5/9/2014 by 9:00am, I was down with fever but I still had to fetch the water and check to see if my corn was ground. On the way from the well to the mill, I heard people shouting “ku gudu, ku gudu” in Hausa, meaning “lets run let’s run”. I started running but due to my ill-health, I could not run fast enough and when I was about to climb up the mountain, the boko haram caught me and brought me to Pulka along with five other women.

After five days under the care of one man called Aliyu, he took us to Gwoza. Here we joined Chibok girls by name Saratu Yahi and Saratu Tabbji who were kidnapped along with their mates in G.S.S Chibok. While in Gwoza, a man named Bana bought me as a slave/wife from Aliyu. I was taken to another village; while there, I got pregnant by the man, Bana.

My owner/husband, Bana, along with other boko haram members went for attack on innocent people. Unfortunately, he was killed by the soldiers. It was then that I began to plan my escape. With the help of God, I was able to follow one small road and then joined a vehicle traveling to Maiduguri. When the soldiers started asking questions during checks on the road, I told them that I had escaped from a boko haram camp. They immediately took me to their barracks in Maiduguri where they interrogated me on how I survived in the Sambisa. They asked me to call my parents to take me home.

Before I was kidnapped I was married to Ubale. When I came out of the Sambisa forest heavily pregnant by boko haram, I came to my husband but he drove me away and said that he was no longer interested in our marriage. When the Director of CCEPI, Dr. Rebecca S. Dali, heard of my case, she gave me a room, food, cooking utensils, mattress, and blanket. Then she enrolled me into her center where I am learning how to sew. I am very grateful to God and Dr. Rebeca S. Dali.

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.