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

Workcamp Reflections

Carol at the workcamp

Carol at the workcamp (photo by Pat Krabacher)

by Carol Goss (participant in the January Workcamp in Nigeria)

When I read in the Messenger about Nigerian Workcamps, I knew I wanted to go. As a child I became enamored with Nigeria when my pastor Bob Bowman and his young family left to serve in Nigeria. And then along with many others, my heart went out to the EYN brothers and sisters in their ongoing crisis. But when I read, hard physical labor in a hot climate, I knew that was my  calling.

Scaffolding at the new church (by Carol Goss)

Scaffolding at the new church (by Carol Goss)

And so, 9 of us from the US melded together in our desire to serve. The hard work was present as cinder blocks and pans of concrete passed from ground level up the scaffolding, and the tall gabled ends of the church were completed. But as we were often reminded, it was the relationships that became the most significant experiences.

Sign advertising the new church at Pegi, where many from Chibok have resettled. (photo from Pat Krabacher)

Sign advertising the new church at Pegi, where many from Chibok have resettled (photo from Pat Krabacher)

Here are 4 reflections on my experience:

  1. We went to visit our first IDP, Internally Displaced Persons, camp, children excitedly ran behind our van. As we descended, the children eagerly gathered around us, thirsty for our attention.
Children at the IDP camp (by Carol Goss)

Children at the IDP camp (by Carol Goss)

No toys or planned activities were seen on the site. We were shown a small tin roof school with a few desks. We crowded inside. There was not enough room for all to sit. But the saddest part, there was no longer a teacher at the camp.

Some of our Workcampers visited the adults in their dwellings. I stayed with the children. I started throwing a frisbee but couldn’t get across the concept of forming a large circle. All wanted to be close to me and the frisbee. Soon we broke into groups and the older boys took the frisbee. I began tossing a ball with some others when a noticed a group of toddlers and shy older kids standing alone. I started singing children’s songs with them. The words were primarily sung by me in English, but the motions were shared by everyone.  It was hard to say goodbye to these children.

  1. One day during a break in the physical labor, I began singing songs with the children
    Happy children learning songs (by Carol Goss)

    Happy children learning songs (by Carol Goss)

    close by. To my surprise, it was the mothers, with varying degrees of English, who were anxious to learn the songs. They wanted to sing them with their children and teach them at children’s church activities. We shared many songs.

  2. My repertoire of children’s songs were called upon another day as a group of mothers and children sat under the canopy. After singing many of our songs, we asked the women to teach us one of their songs. We learned it in Hausa and English. “I must go with Jesus anywhere. No matter the roughness of the road. I must go. I must go!” Literally and figuratively, these women have traveled many a rough road.
  1. On our last Sunday, we traveled the hour to worship with our new friends in Pegi.  Sitting within the newly completed block walls with the roof overtop, we unified our voices. Choirs sang and praises were expressed. As I sat, I silently prayed that I could be particularly aware of God in our midst.
Carol and Mary during the last worship service. (photo from Carol Goss)

Carol and Mary during the last worship service. (photo from Carol Goss)

Before long, a young child came and stood near me. I had not seen this child before and wasn’t sure if the child was a boy or girl. Later I learned her name was Mary. There she stood, looking at me. I asked if she wanted to sit on my lap. She did. I retrieved two granola bars I had with me. She ate those as well as finished my water. I put my arms around her and she pulled them tighter. We finished the service                                                                                                 sitting in God’s presence.

Accomplishments in 2016

2016 Nigeria Crisis Summary  (Total $1,525,082)

Thank you to everyone who supported the Nigeria Crisis work in 2016. It is amazing to see what we have accomplished together. May God continue to work among us.

317 818 853 903 1220 eyn-food-distribution2

Home Repair and Rebuilding                                                                                             30 new units with kitchens and toilets                                                                                       Provided Water sources and 2 solar powered pumps                                                          260 homes re-roofed (4 zones)

Peace Building and Trauma Recovery                                                                            18 basic workshops                                                                                                                 3 advanced workshops                                                                                                             3 Training of Trainer                                                                                                                 Leaders sent to Rwanda for Alternatives to Violence Program                                               2 Healing and Rebuilding our Community Workshops (Maiduguri and Damaturu)                 Training for 14 women’s leaders by Children’s Disaster Service USA                                     10 Children’s Trauma  Training workshops (155 trained)

Agriculture & Community Development                                                                             6 leaders attended ECHO conference                                                                                     5 leaders attended a soybean innovation lab                                                                           Goat trial project started for 10 workers                                                                     Vaccinations for 10,000 chickens                                                                                            Seeds and fertilizer to 8500 families

Livelihoods                                                                                                                            2 women’s projects for 200 widows & orphans                                                                        Empowered 587 families to established their own businesses                                               3 Skills Acquisition Centers provided training and businesses for 152 widows &                   orphans

Education                                                                                                                           Kulp Bible College renovations/repairs                                                             Comprehensive Secondary School wall built for security                                               School fees paid for 420 students                                                                                       120 orphans housed, fed and school provided                                                                       3 Learning centers providing schooling for 2,180 students

Food, Medical & Home Supplies                                                                                      35 distributions to 12,500 families                                                                                  Medical assistance at 19 locations serving 5000                                                           Medical refresher course held for 16 dispensary workers

EYN Strengthening                                                                                                         Unity house in Jos furnished                                                                                           Kwarhi staff housing and offices repaired                                                                      Conference center repaired                                                                                              Conference assistance for Majalisa, Peace conference for pastors, Minister’s conference, Devotional materials printed                                                                                             Hosted 42 US visitors during the year                                                                                     Joint Workcamp – EYN and 9 US volunteers began building a church for IDP’s

Hope in Starting Again – A visit to Yola IDP camp

Contributed by Pat Krabacher

Salamatu Billi singing with the women at the Yola camp

Salamatu Billi singing with the women at the Yola camp

We arrived at the Yola camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) and Salamatu Billi (wife of the EYN President, Rev. Joel Billi) seemed very happy to be with the women and she joined them in energetically singing warm songs of welcome to our Fellowship Tour. I could not help but wonder how many of the women were widows (as there were noticeably fewer men in the camp). The women’s choir, nonetheless sang with great joy. )

Michelle Gibel and Palace

Michelle Gibbel and Palace

Michele Gibbel of the Litiz, PA church shared the following “take-away” experience: “During the worship/introduction time at the IPD camp in Yola, a young girl named Palace sat on my lap.  She kept playing with my hands, trying to scratch off my freckles, noticing the small blister, and looking at my uneven fingernails.  And then she started to count my fingers.  She touched each one.  And then she touched each of her fingers. 10 – the same number. For me, this moment was so profound.  Our lives could not be any more different.  BUT, we are both created by the same loving God, who has formed each of our fingers, and calls each of us by name.  And so, we are really not that different after all.  My heart will forever remain with my new Little Sister, Palace.” hands

After the welcome singing and the remarks, we toured the camp and saw the sparse living conditions, but the concrete block homes at least were sturdy and permanent. The children were so excited to show Michelle the new water well which seemed to be a symbol of great hope.  We played games and left some mementos of our love (soccer balls, crayons and paper, Frisbees, etc.) with the camp director, Rev. Jerry Tizhe.)

Children around the well

Children around the well

 

Humbled by an Onion

Deb and Dale Ziegler

Deb and Dale Ziegler

By Deb Ziegler                                            While interviewing a family at Masaka, an internally displaced persons care center in Nigeria, I learned about the needs of one father.  I asked him what his needs are.  He said he would like his children to go to school and he needs a job.  I asked what he did for a job before and he said he grew onions and sold them.  Now my face and my heart demonstrated compassion as I processed this information.  But my mind was thinking:  I saw many people selling onions along the road, who would buy your onions?  Everyone around you is in crisis, who has money to buy your onions?  These were my thoughts at the           moment.

I also learned about the people returning to their homes in the northeast.  They needed to plant their gardens kilometers  away from the village for the safety of the village.  The military could not protect them if the corn fields are close to the houses, because they can not see the enemy approaching.  I grow all my own vegetables for the year in my garden. This summer as  I worked each morning weeding and harvesting, often in the  company of my neighbor, I prayed for my Nigerian brothers and sisters.  I was thankful for peacefulness of my garden, listening to birds singing and often watching the sun rise.  Thankful I did not have to look over my shoulder to see if I was safe.   And each week as I heard of people in Nigeria being slaughtered as they tended their garden,  I was brought to tears. Random weekly attacks, stealing produce, burning crops as I peacefully filled my pantry for the coming winter.

a market scene in Nigeria where onions could be sold.

A market scene in Nigeria where onions could be sold.

I harvested my onions and remembered the father who needed a job selling onions to support his family.  I used my last onion one day in October and I just started to laugh….Who would buy your onions I thought…I would…. From now til next August.  A few weeks later I was frying up some of my store bought onions, while also cleaning out the refrigerator.  I was feeling rather sad about the spoiled  food I was throwing away, thinking about Nigeria and the people starving to death each week, when I smelled the burning onions.  CRAP,                                                                                         now I need to buy another one of your onions!                                                                Once again I was humbled by an onion.

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.

 

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.

 

Fellowship Tour August 2016 (Part 2)

By Jessie Marsiglio

Picture by Donna Parcell Visiting Gurku (new teacher Sarah Robert on lower right)

Picture by Donna Parcell
Visiting Gurku (new teacher Sarah Robert on lower right)

We visited IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps and were greeted so warmly that the women even had us join them in singing and dancing.  At the Gurku site (this was the one Markus had started with both Christians and Muslims) we saw the solar system of water that had just been installed to provide constant clean water supply for the camp. Each camp needs a similar system.

All the children need the discipline, structure and education of a school.  Prayers were answered the Friday we were at Gurku when Sarah Robert arrived to be the teacher of a school.  She will be working with camp leaders to begin officially.  We gave her our blessings and some school and recreation supplies.

Picture by Donna Parcell Jessie at Favored Sister's School

Picture by Donna Parcell
Jessie at Favored Sister’s School

We visited Favored Sisters School and were greeted with the children’s singing.  Since school was out for the summer, we interacted only with the orphans who lived there.  As much fun as we had with sports and activities, I noticed some somber-faced children standing apart from everything.  One older boy was wearing a pink girl Jacket that was way too small for him but he would not remove it even though the day was hot — it was his security. He hesitated at first to join in any games but eventually his curiosity overcame his fear of us.  He would not talk or smile until near the end and it was the brightest smile ever. One older girl hung back but kept watch on all activities.  When I needed to go to the bathroom she was asked to escort me.  I asked her name and she said Susan when I immediately told her a story of a Susanna and ended it with and “Susana grew in favor with God and was very beautiful” just as she (Susan) was beautiful.” She smiled for the first time and held my hand the rest of the day.

The best visit of the week for any purpose was when we revisited this school.  The children realized that we were more than just one-timers and that we really did care about them.  They had all increased their skills at the activities we left with them and were eager to share with us.  My boy with the jacket still had on the pink jacket but immediately joined the group.  Susan grabbed my hand and played with us.  Such a change in these two just because we showed that we cared.   I hope this change continues and they are able to overcome the horrors they must have faced.

Picture by Jessie Widow learning to sew

Picture by Jessie Marsiglio
Widow learning to sew

My heart bleeds for the children and we need to do everything for them.  But we also need to work with the women. My personal opinion, my hope and prayer is that we are able to teach the widows to be self-supporting and return them to their home area when it is safe.  CoB has scheduled some work camp to help repair/rebuild homes for them.  But unless the widows have means to provide for themselves the widows will remain helpless.  At Gurku, the widows are tending crops and the catfish ponds which will teach agricultural skills.  We visited two organizations who are training in computer, sewing, soap making, etc.; this is a help but each organization can only manage a few trainees at a time.

We need more facilities and maybe even more variety of jobs training.  If these widows are not normalized soon we might face generations of dependency and we cannot afford it nor do the women want that.

I was sad to leave Nigeria and hope someday to return.

 

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