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

Summer at Gurku Interfaith Camp

Dr Yakubu, Markus and John Joseph

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

As reported by John Joseph (Camp coordinator and administrator)

Gurku Crops

Gurku Crops

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

Vaccines

Vaccines from Zawram Islamic Global Foundation

 

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

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

Never enough medicine

Never enough medicine

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

A church is people stuck together by love

Zander and Joshua

Zander and Joshua

Church in Uba by Zander Willoughby

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

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

Old church - Mufa A

Old church – Mufa A

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

New chruch - Mufa A

New chruch – Mufa A

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

Worship Time

Worship Time

The Joys of Working for Nigeria

by Carl Hill

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

Middle Pennsylvania District

Middle Pennsylvania District

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

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

Markus with Sarah Robert and Roxane

Markus with Sarah Robert and Roxane

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

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

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

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

Thankful people in Jalingo

Thankful people in Jalingo

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

Maiduguri was an amazing experience

Reflections by Zander

Zander

Zander

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

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

Nigeria-Borno State-Maiduguri

Nigeria – Borno State – Maiduguri

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

IDP School at LCC Polo

IDP School at LCC Polo

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

Smiles at the end of the Trauma workshop

Smiles at the end of the Trauma workshop

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

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

 

Youth Peace Travel Team – Camp Brethren Woods and Annual Conference


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This past week the team enjoyed a few days at Brethren Woods and then was off to a very busy schedule at Annual Conference. At Brethren Woods, we led one session with each unit, focusing on our “Just Peace” workshop, in which campers think about how different questions are just or unjust. At Annual Conference, we did this same session with junior high and senior high participants at the age group activities. Another exciting part of our time at Annual Conference was leading games, crafts, and storytelling with the K-2 activities! It was quite a busy week traveling from Maryland to Virginia, to North Carolina, and ending in Florida – but it was filled with learning, sharing, fellowship, and fun.

Hey, y’all! Wow, what a great week. I absolutely LOVED getting to go to Brethren Woods and Annual Conference. First of all, I spent a week counseling at Brethren Woods last summer, so it was really fun to go to a place where I was at least a little familiar and had some previous ties too. Not to mention, I go to school near Harrisonburg so it felt like going home in a way. The people there were amazing and we got to spend some time talking with the staff as well as connecting with campers. I even saw a few of my campers from last year! Also, a former Youth Peace Travel Team member even helped us with a family meeting, providing some extra guidance and insight, and encouragement. I hated to leave so early, but going to Annual Conference was pretty amazing too. I got to see some of my church family for the first time in a while, and I realized just how much I missed them. The business was really great-despite differences in belief and theology; what I was able to listen in on sounded respectful and loving. Worship spoke so strongly to this, too. Discussing our differences and working through conflict in love, and doing all of this with Christ as the center through which we are united, is crucial. We also experienced some great discussion in our sessions with the youth, and we got to help serve in a number of different booths and activities. I think what I loved most, though, was seeing people from my home congregation, past and present. Their love and encouragement means so much to me and I really loved getting to spend some quality time with them. Overall it was a great week, and I’m excited to be heading to Florida next! I hope Camp Ithiel is ready for us!
– Phoebe

Greetings pals!
We have just finished up our time at Brethren Woods and Annual Conference. It has been one of our busier weeks so far in my opinion. So many things to do and people to see! One of my highlights from the week was having our weekly “family meeting” hosted by a former YPTT member at Brethren Woods. This was our most difficult family meeting yet. And seeing that this was our most difficult meeting and how smooth and full of love it was, is an insight to the blessing it is to be working with this group of individuals. Our Brethren Woods mentor ended our meeting time with some feedback, saying “I am amazed that you are able to speak so intentionally to each other.” This phrase really touched my heart. Even though we all come from different places, different working styles, and different personalities it is always a joy to come together for a shared passion of peace, justice, and camp. My favorite thing about being a part of this team is getting to dive into what it means to live peacefully and actively love our neighbors and then having the immediate opportunity to live out our teachings. I am so blessed and respected by these gals, I hope to take the message of speaking the truth in love with me anywhere God may lead me. It was also one of God’s many well timed plans, that this lesson touched my heart right before Annual Conference. I was nervous about going into this conference as a young adult with so many “controversial” topics at hand. However, I was amazingly pleased to see everyone speaking their truth in respectful fashions. Even as communications get tough, days get long, and we become tired. We are all children of God. We are all called to be peacemakers.

Blessings,
Kiana

Although our time was short at Brethren Woods, I would like to thank the staff for the especially warm welcome that we received. One of the many blessings of this summer for me has been the chance to engage with young adults in leadership in the church. One of my favorite activities to lead and participate in this summer has quickly become an exercise from our Just Peace workshop. Each individual must decide if they think a certain activity is just, unjust, or somewhere in the middle. We encourage counselors to participate and each week, I am humbled by the contributions that they graciously provide. Each help me think about the questions in a new way, which I can then share with campers in upcoming weeks. From this week, I will remember that perhaps sitting with someone new could be made more just by inviting them to the table where others are already sitting and invite them into the community.

During the remainder of the week as we attended Annual Conference, I was further blessed by extraordinary fellowship as I reconnected with members of my church who have supported me throughout my faith journey, shared further time with many new friends from this summer, and developed a greater connection to the church through interactions with strangers bonded by our shared faith. I was again inspired particularly by the young adults in the church. One night we gathered together to meet the moderator-elect, and as I looked around the room I saw pastors, members of Brethren Volunteer Service, social justice activists, students, and a lot of friends. I cherish these relationships as role models, for I too can live out my faith at this point in my life.

Peace,
Sara

Hey everyone! What a week it was. Even though our time at Brethren Woods was short, I felt like we made an impact with the campers and counselors. From the minute we stepped in the door, the staff was welcoming us with their arms wide open, inviting us to join in on their Harry Potter Movie Marathon. During a break from watching movies, the team and a few counselors had a deep discussion about our faith journeys, how we viewed conflict resolution in relation to the Bible, and our path to discovering our individual theologies. It was really awesome to be able to share something so personal with each other and a new counselor on the first night we were at camp. I also really appreciate the bonds I quickly made with other counselors and campers who connected with me through our interactions outside of sessions.

At Annual Conference, I was refreshed to spend time with my church family and other friends in the larger denomination who I have formed relationships over the years of being involved in denominational activities. This being my first Annual Conference as an adult, I was interested to see the process of how business worked. It was really cool to see the delegates get through all of the queries essentially in one day. My favorite part from conference was my time with the K-2 activities. This is an age group the team will not see again this summer and it was awesome to witness their energy. I read a book to them called “What does peace feel like?” The book asks questions about peace through the different senses. When we got to the big question of what does peace feel like, one kid said, “Peace feels like it fills a hole in your heart.” Hearing these words from such young people are so inspiring to a young adult. This was just one of the many wise descriptions that the “youngins” said. My favorite question from the book was what does peace taste like, and many of the children answered, ICE CREAM! So with that being said, I will sign off with:

Peace, Love, and Ice Cream
Jenna