Interview with Released Chibok Girl

This interview was submitted by EYN’s Disaster Team Correspondent. Bear in mind that some of the blog may be difficult to read due to the horrific nature of the content. As we read news of the Dapchi girls being released and we near the 4th anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok girls (April 14th), we remember and pray for the hundreds of women, young men and girls who remain in captivity under Boko Haram.

Here is what was shared by one of the rescued/released Chibok girls. 

Chibok Girls April 2014

“ We stayed under trees, even when it was raining, no room, we were surrounded with thorns. When we were abducted, they gave us food. Sometime 2 to 3 cows were slaughtered for us. Ah! But afterward when we refused to get married, while some were married, they denied us food. We had to feed on bush yam, leaves and soup that was what we ate.  Those that agreed to be married left and were married in Gwoza when Boko Haram captured the place, but we that refused to be married are those released.”

On what about those that are married? “I don’t know. But for us, Shakau wanted to know our stand, ‘you are not doing sallah, I don’t understand which religion you are practicing?’ Then we said not that we are not doing sallah but we don’t believe the religion (Islam). He said ‘do you mean you still have your religion in mind since you are not following what is being taught?  We did not bring you here for love or clothes. But those of you asked for marriage’.

“Then he gathered those that are married and asked them, all of you who are married if you want to go back to your homes we can take you back. Then they replied that they prefer being killed in the forest and proceed to Aljan (Paradise).  They are up to 60. Those of us killed by bomb are up to 10, and 9 died in the process of delivering, some are paralyzed, others lost their hands or legs, others can no longer hear properly, to communicate with them one has to shout before they are able to hear. The forest where we stayed has no house but they (BH) have tents where they cover themselves when it is raining. There were many guards around us”.

“This is what we were writing among us”.  She showed us an exercise book where she said they used to write Words of God and letters to friends themselves in the forest.

“We continued praying when they are not around us. We were 205 abducted, 106 are freed. We were not allowed to stay alone. No. When we were to come home, 4 among us refused to come with us, they said they want to stay and follow Islam.  They said if their parents would come and join them they will receive them to Islam. “When we refused to be married they forced us to do some hard work, breaking of stone, cutting trees, washing their wife’s clothes, constructing of their thatch houses.  they said we are slaves, so we were forced to do different works. We cannot describe where we were. Some of us attempted to escape. When they were caught they were given 100 lashes, denied food for good two days, and were tied with ropes and thrown under trees. They were separated from us for short distances where we could see them, but we cannot help them. But we sometimes hide and snuck under grasses to assist them with water, when we see BH then we ran.”

Marching to remember those still in captivity

“One day Shekau’s deputy came to us – he dug a hole and lay down one of the girls in front of the hole, that she is going to be slaughtered. They called one girl, said to have been abducted when she visited her boyfriend in military barrack in Chibok. She was asked to slaughter the girl laying down. She said ‘is she a sheep or goat? ’one Boko Haram member replied her, yes she is a goat but not edible.  She refused, that she cannot slaughter her.  As she persisted, she was told to lie down so that she could be slaughtered instead, which she did. Then some of them (BH) said leave her while other members of BH said free them but would punish her when they would be freed.

We were not allowed to look at them in the face. They beat us. When we were in the forest, a man appeared from the air to rescue us, but he fell in the midst of BH and was tied with rope dragged to forest and was killed.  Another man, a father of one of us, went to free his daughter, that why his daughter should could be abducted. We made to understand that he is one of the sect members. Then BH told him if we are to free any not only one but all others.

“It is not true that NGOs (Red Cross) take food to the forest by plane.  They only went there when they wanted to pick us, even that day, they did not carry anything along; they were even waylaid by BH and were warned if they are coming to take us by force they (BH) will kill them along with us.  So, they were afraid and left.  Later on, Boko Haram called them that they can come. Shekau and Buhari communicated.”

Celebration following the release of 82 girls

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.

 

 

Justice is coming! It is Jesus.

by Nathan Hosler, director of the Office of Public Witness

Christian and Muslim Peace Initiative (CAMPI) inauguration in Maiduguri. Photo credit: Silas Ishaya

2 Peter 3:8-15a

Isaiah 40:1-11

Anticipation. Waiting. Agonizing? Uncertain. Advent—waiting for the promised One. On Thursday, while I was in northeast Nigeria, we rose early for our 3-4 hour drive and hit the road. Rutted. Through dry, mostly flat land with low trees except for the palms. Security checkpoints with men with big guns and barricades. Road blocks of barrels or tires or logs at checkpoints which jut, maybe half way, into the road. These alternate—one from the left, right, left, right—which slows traffic. This traffic slowing strategy is also used through villages which are lined with market stands. This works-sort of- but at times it generates a certain careening as cars coming opposing directions navigate as quickly as possible. While we barreled through one such obstacle course a gas tanker kept pace with us leading our way, weaving wildly, looking a little like the Joker in Batman driving the tractor trailer. Then, passing Gombi, we tighten a bad sounding wheel before engaging the long smoother straightaways (regularly hanging at 85 miles an hour) to Yola and the airport. As a mere passenger rather than driver, I wait. Bracing myself, observing, talking—but waiting.

My last 5 in-country flights have been delayed but just in case this one isn’t we get there early enough. They aren’t boarding yet and aren’t even checking us in. So, I wait. It’d be nice to be productive, but the uncertain waiting is distracting. Once the check-in begins, it will be a scramble. Anticipation. Sort of poised, ready. No word on the delay, but that the harmattan dust in the air from the Sahara is too thick. Another flight arrives…hope is sparked. The airport assistant guy, Abdul, suggests I might want to get a seat on this flight. Wasn’t sure, but they were filled anyway when he checks. Maybe an hour or so later it is starting to get uncertain if we will get out before they shut down flights. I text him and ask for my paper ticket print-out so that I have it if he leaves. Not minutes later, they begin checking in. He makes a mad dash towards me across the empty room to retrieve the paper and dives into line. Our hope is restored. Anticipation. Checked in. Through security. Waiting. One hour. Maybe another. Text the Ambassador to say I’ll probably miss our meeting.

Then high above, through a strangely garbled PA system, something is announced. Through deciphering or sleuthing we learn that the flight will arrive from Abuja by 5:50 pm (flight was to depart by 12:15). Relief. Hope at the first bit of information passed on to us in 6 hours—the masses who wait. 5:45. 5:50. This is the story of Advent. Of the waiting and expectation of the coming Messiah who will free the captive, heal the blind, cast off the oppressor, and proclaim reconciliation with God.

Another slightly less garbled but still incomprehensible announcement. A young messenger of doom walks around and confirms. The flight has been canceled. Which means I also miss my flight home.

At the time of writing parts of this I remain in the anticipation of both Advent and getting a flight home. Though we are still weeks from the coming of Jesus, we may remember from last year that we will not be disappointed. The messengers will not be my young airport messenger of doom but the angels to the shepherds. But that is getting ahead of where we are today. Today we wait.

Our passage is 2 Peter 3:8-15a.

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 

The passage begins by challenging our notions of God’s time and patience. If 1000 years = a day for God, then what does that break down to per minute? Per second? However, if a day is like a thousand years then what does that mean as the reverse? This sounds less like a common math problem (unless of course this is what one learns if one majors in math) and more like the Matrix or Inception, movies in which time and space bend in unusual ways. This is not simply asserting that God experiences time in a very accelerated or very slow manner.

Photo Credit: Nathan Hosler

This number 1000 came back to me this week while I was at the daily—that is every day at 5:00 at the Unity Fountain next to the Transcorp Hotel in Abuja—vigil marking the abduction of the school girls from Chibok. This past Monday was 1330th day. Today, Sunday December 10th, is 1336 days. How has God experienced these days? There is some old-timey philosophy that Christians have occasionally been influenced by that states that the divine must be above change and above being influenced by the merely human. Our God, however, (which is most scandalous), becomes incarnate and joins us in our existence and joy and pain.

That Jesus is coming (since we are in advent we refer to it in the future) and will show up in this world as God incarnate—God having taken on flesh and blood and pain and joy—that this is our God then means that God has not been distant from us nor the school girls of Chibok these 1336 days. Jesus came healing and serving and feeling and calls us to the same—or should I say, will call us to do the same once he is born.

Jesus, and thus God, is not above pain and the agony of the kidnapped and their families but with them. God is with us. God is with you. This is a type of hope. The passage continues on, expounding on the timeliness of God.

The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you,[a] not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. 

The Lord is not patient out of lack of concern but as an act of mercy. The act of mercy which allows for repentance. This call to repentance is both urgent and marked by delay. Delay for repentance and turning. There are many horrible things in this world. I noted the Chibok Girls. There have been many others. Dr. Rebecca Dali has, during her work of humanitarian relief, collected some 4,000 names, dates, and locations of people abducted.

On my flight back from Maiduguri I was wearing my Office of Public Witness t-shirt. On the back is our tag line—“Seeking to live the peace of Jesus publicly.” The man sitting beside me said he liked it…it turned out that he was EYN. We talked for the whole flight to Abuja about his research in public health and how people cannot access it. Towards the end I learned he has 4 children. The youngest is a boy and named after his father. Even later in the flight he revealed that his father had been kidnapped and killed. Not by Boko Haram but by the Nigerian military.

So, when the Office of Public Witness works with the Nigerian Working Group which we convene on military accountability and human rights, raising concerns about the sale of weapons by the US, it is not an abstract thought. It is not a sterile appeal to theoretical legal frameworks, which are useful and regularly used, but it is because we follow a God who feels the pain of people and calls us to a ministry feeling this pain—and then acting in response. God’s patience is for repentance. God’s patience is for repentance. Jesus, the one whose birth we anticipate in advent, is the embodiment of this justice.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Note that this dissolving is not simply destruction but a process of revealing. It is a disclosing of acts done. Because of this we should live accordingly. Because of this we can also trust that acts of injustice will be brought to light.

11 Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening[c] the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? 13 But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

Where righteousness is at home. Righteousness can also be translated justice. “We wait for a new heavens and a new earth, where justice dwells”

14 Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.

Because of this being made known—this revealing work—we recognize that that this is good news for those on the side of justice. However, it is concerning for those who are not. Advent is the marking of the coming of Jesus—the justice of God. This is the good news that the angels will proclaim. While this is concerning for some—which may be us—we should consider the patience of the Lord as our salvation. So, this coming and revealing is good news for both the just and unjust for both the righteous and unrighteous.

The patience of God leaves room for repentance. This is not the same as those clergy whom Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rebukes. It is not patience in the face of wrong. There is both a patience leading towards repentance and an impatience with abuse. “everything with be disclosed” in the last day–God reveals what is hidden and brings to justice.

Comfort, O comfort my people,
    says your God….

A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed..

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.

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.