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.

 

Tractor Update

By Dave Reist

Dave Reist hands off tractor to Gurku Leadership

Both Gurku and Kwarhi have received their tractors.  Pam and I were at Gurku from Wednesday noon through Friday noon which gave me an opportunity to get some of the bugs out of the tractor and the implements.  They actually had me out on the “back 40” with the disc plow, which was quite an experience!  There were many items that a US dealer would have done that were not done such tighten bolts, install drawbar, adjust hood, etc.  I also discovered that the trailing wheel on the disc plow had been installed backward and the actual discs on the disc harrow were installed end-for-end.  Both mistakes made by the dealer.  (During the purchasing process, Abu the dealership owner said, “Dave you know so much more about this equipment than we do”).

Unloading the tractor

There was great excitement at Gurku when the tractors arrived Tuesday and according to Markus great excitement at Kwarhi too!!  One of the men (I think Ibrahim the school headmaster and trauma healing teacher) at Gurku commented “Our children will remember this day (arrival of tractors) for the rest of their lives.”

Yesterday I left the Gurku equipment in the hands of the Agric Chairman, a very competent IDP resident appointed by Markus.  I also created a logbook in which to enter service/maintenance records, jobs accomplished by the equipment, billing, etc.  Carol Smith printed a Massey Ferguson Care booklet for the Chairman.  Abu did not have an Owner’s Manual to give us but he will supply one.

Dave Reist and the tractor are the main attraction of the day

It is, of course, our intent that after a hopefully short incubation period, the tractors will be completely self-sustaining.  Asta, a BEST member, who has a farm near Gurku has asked me about rental of equipment policy.  There seems to be a strong need for this equipment and many ways for it to create value which will then create revenue.  Markus has stressed the importance of accountability to his “team” and I believe this project has a great chance of success.

Today or tomorrow an experienced tractor driver is coming to Gurku (and will be a resident there) to do the actual operation of the tractor.  Pam and I plan to go to Kwarhi with Markus sometime in the next two weeks to present the equipment to EYN and to conduct the initiation process.

Tractor arrives at Kwarhi

We are hearing and sensing much gratitude for this project and so we convey that sincere gratitude to you and the many others who have made this possible!

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

Nigeria Tractor Project is a go!

Thank you to all who have been raising special funds for the Nigeria Tractor Project! Several churches and districts have contributed significantly and we are ready to buy the tractors and get the project underway. (Any additional funds raised for this project will go into purchasing seeds and fertilizer.) The recipients in Nigeria are very enthusiastic about this venture.

Markus Gamache reports, “Many of the people from Northeast Nigeria cannot return to their towns and villages because of unsafe conditions. It could take a year or two before the situation is under control enough for them to return and start a new life.  The main way for these people to support themselves and their families has always been through farming.  The country at the moment is facing large-scale economic inflation caused by political instability, religious discrimination, ethnic clashes, bribery, corruption and disputes over oil monies in the south. All this has contributed to the lack of educational opportunities for many of the children as well as a crumbling infrastructure that has left most social services inaccessible to a large part of the population. The result, especially in northeast Nigeria is widespread hunger and poverty.

Most farming is done by hand and is very labor intensive. The tractors will help greatly with this work. One tractor will be used at the EYN Headquarters in Kwarhi and the other with Displaced Persons around the Abuja area.

With the help of the tractors, they will be able to clear larger areas of land, form Co-op groups that will plant the crops and share the harvest among their members. Some of the crops will  be sold and the proceeds will provide for next year’s maintenance, purchase food for those in remote areas, and provide school fees and medicine.

Please continue to pray for the success of this project and for the people who will benefit from it!

 

WHY SHOULD I GO?

John at Pegi workcamp. Photo by Pat Krabacher

by John Krabacher

My wife Pat returned from her first Nigerian Fellowship Tour in August 2016. First thing she said was, “You need to go – it was a fantastic experience.” My first thought was why do I need to go? Or, do I need to go?

Pat left to go grocery shopping and I picked up the Messenger. Like always, I read it from the back to front. On the back page I saw an ad for volunteers for work camps for Nigeria. Help rebuild a church for the EYN. My mind went wild. Should I ask for more info or not? Pat returned home and almost as immediate as she did to me I said, “Let’s go to a work camp in Nigeria.”

What am I saying I want to go? Pat called Roxanne Hill and she verified the group will help the Utako church in Abuja Nigeria to rebuild. I still said I am not sure. However, Pat made reservations and the confirmations came quickly, in an email I will go no matter how bumpy the road. “I will follow Jesus no matter how bumpy the road,” became the mantra of work camp 2 this was part of a song we learned from the women of Pegi.

After many hours on a plane and transfers we finally arrived in Abuja. I first noticed I was “not in Kansas anymore”. The work camp group of 7 people, I have never really met, got together at the immigration booth to have passports checked. Afterwards, I looked in the big hall and saw the smiling face of my friend Marcus Gamache. He said, “Brother John so glad you are here.” I know why I am here – it is because of the relationships I formed in 2015 with the BEST Group when the EYN Women’s Choir at annual conference in Tampa then a time of rest at Camp Ithele, Orlando. I was so happy and relieved to see him.

Pegi workcamp

This trip was about building, not just brick and mortar building but inter-personal relationships. I knew Marcus would take care of us. He will not let any danger happen to us and it didn’t. The first evening we were greeted by Mala Gadzama (an accountant) who took us out to dinner. During the build we talked about his vision of an orphanage. I believe he was tugging at my heart, I am not a kid person. Did God bring me here to change me?

The next day the group got together in the morning and Marcus was going to take us to the worksite at the Pegi village. Ridding on one of the bumpiest road I have ever been on, we arrived and saw partially built walls and many bricks stacked outside.  Ayuba Gwani (The Engineer) instructed us with many other helpers, men and women to move the bricks from outside of the partially built church to inside near the gable ends. We formed a line and passed bricks from one person to the other. It was hundreds of bricks, I was so tired. After moving the heavy bricks he said “Cement – mix cement.” I grabbed a shovel but he said, “This is for young men, you rest.”  I said to myself, “Why am I here? I came to work.”

I watched five young men shovel sand and bags of cement, mixing water fast. I am determined to get into this but not today. After it was mixed, ladies from Pegi with babies on their backs carried pans of motor to be lifted to other men on the scaffolding to  cement the bricks in place. I talked to several of the guys and they started to tell me their stories of Boko Haram destroying their homes and killing neighbors and parents at Chibok. Many of the women were widows. We talked and cried until it was time to go. I left saying, “We will meet again on Monday.”

I did not come to just be with this work camp group but to form relationships with people of great loss and hear the stories as horrible as they might be. This was part of the healing process. The people wanted someone else to know they love God enough to build a church in His honor. I was honored to be with them. This was a time to laugh, a time to cry, and a time to bring back hope and life to a EYN Church in Pegi. My prayers are with the congregation many miles away. I know why I went to Nigeria.

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.

Food Distributions Continue

Rev. Yuguda gives food to needy families.

Rev. Yuguda gives food to needy families.

Director of the Nigerian Disaster ministry, Rev. Yuguda Mdurvwa, reports that the team is continuing with food distributions. The following pictures (provided by EYN) are from a distribution near Michika in the village of Munni. Medical assistance was also made available. Violence continues in the regions nearest the Sambisa Forrest where Boko Haram still has a foothold.

 

Thank you for your continued prayers and support.

Medical personnel see patients and give medicines.

Medical personnel see patients and give medicines.

Relief workers unload bags of grain.

Relief workers unload bags of grain.

Women wait in line to receive food supplies.

Women wait in line to receive food supplies.

 

Education Must Continue – Highlights of 2016 and Prayers for 2017

Paul & Becky Gadzama Directors of EMCI

Paul & Becky Gadzama (on the2  sides)
Directors of EMCI

By Becky Gadzama

Education Must Continue Initiative (EMCI) is so thankful to God for another year.  Our prayer is that , every one of you would  enjoy a very exciting  walk with the Lord through out this new year. We also pray that He will provide ALL your  needs both spiritual and material according  to His  riches in  glory by Christ  Jesus.

2016 was very encouraging for EMCI. Highlights include:

– Graduation of 59 IDP Yola senior class. 85% of whom passed their SSCE exams( SAT) equivalence.

– Efforts to start EMCI school in a maiduguri suburb for Kanuri girls,

– Greater opportunities for the relocation of children from from north east to safe schools in central Nigeria and other southern parts of Nigeria,

Children in Yola classrooms

Children in Yola classrooms

– Gradual stabilization of the Yola and Lassa IDP schools for better future directions and planning.

– One of the chibok girls that have lived with us has started her degree (Accounting ) program in AUN Yola. The other is preparing for her SSCE. Their determinations are very encouraging.

-Amazing donation of nutritious food to EMCI kid by ALL THINGS POSSIBLE. It arrived very timely , at the peak of the food crisis in the Borno camps. Over 14000 kids benefited from it in Maiduguri and 6000 children, orphaned by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen violence.

Lassa School

Lassa School

Praise and prayer requests for 2017:

– Thanking God His  provisions in the past years. – that God will continue to bless CoB both financially and materially – peace in Nigeria – freedom and human right in Nigeria – stable school year – EMCI senior students to do well in their SSCE exams this year also. – successful teacher capacity programs – safety as we travel to and fro – God’s blessings so that EMCI can do much more this year. – Good health – more opportunities to impact the lives of children educationally. – Favor for the take off of the Kanuri girls school in Maiduguri. -That the remaining 194 Chibok  girls still in captivity will be home very soon

 

Traveling with Markus Gamache

By Deb Ziegler

We have been blessed to host Markus Gamache as he hosted us when visited in Nigeria.  One body in Christ, across the ocean… we have seen and heard each other’s journey and we have been blessed. It was a busy two weeks, we traveled over 2000 miles and spoke in 10 different venues from churches to Colleges.  It was a real treat to be able to hear and watch Markus interact with different audiences across the country.  He has a way of connecting with those he is speaking to and can bring an update of the true happenings in Nigeria to a very personal level.  Here are a few highlights about Markus and our journey with him.

Markus at Postdam Church of the Brethren Southern Ohio District Nigeria Fundraiser

Markus at Postdam Church of the Brethren with Pastor Carl Hill
Southern Ohio District Nigeria Fundraiser

Markus’ journey

Each time I listened to Markus speak to a group or held a conversation in the car I learned a little bit more of his story.  Markus was born into a pagan family.  He was the first boy born to his mother, who was the fourth wife of his father.  He grew up in the bush where each wife had three huts, one for sleeping, one for cooking and one for storing corn and making beer. The father had a hut to himself in the center of the compound.  Markus grew up with many brothers and sisters.  When he was about 7 years old to 10 years old he began going to school where he learned to read the Koran and was learning the Muslim prayers.  His father was a leader in the community and became a Muslim and so his whole family became Muslim. This was when Markus was 13 years old.   Between the age of 10 and 13 Markus and the other boys in his school met a Christian man who told them it would be very difficult to become a Muslim; because if you did not recite the prayers just right they would burn you with a hot poker stick.  Markus decided to become a Christian out of this fear.  When his father decided the family would become Muslim, Markus was kicked out of the house and built a small corn stalk house at the edge of the village.  His mother lived with him until he was 15 years old, when his father required her to return home.  She continued to support him with food placed over the fence.  Currently Markus’ father is deceased and his mother is living in his home as a Muslim.  He has many Muslim friends and family members as well as Christian friends and family members.

Markus with his wife and mother

Markus with his wife and mother

Markus has been working with interfaith relations for years. He has six children, two with his first wife who died of complications of diabetes when the children were 7 and 8 years old.  He then married his current wife Janada and they have four children ages 7, 5, 3 and 6 months old.  Markus works with the EYN church and is the representative from EYN to the Church of the Brethren, USA.  This requires much time and energy away from his family.  He hosts visitors to Nigeria, making many things possible.  He visits both in USA and Germany to continue work for the church.  During the Crisis since 2014 Markus shared he has not slept in his bed.  He has hosted many people in his home, both Muslim and Christian, all running for their lives from Boko Haram.  He lives in a three bedroom home, with one bathroom. He described hosting over 60 people in his home at one point.   Not just of a night or two, but for months.  It was a hard burden… to feed these people.  Little children were everywhere, sometimes defecating and urinating on the floors.  His wife was exhausted and their marriage stressed.   So the interfaith camp at Gurku…was born out of necessity.  The Church of the Brethren and many others have supported its ministry.  Before I get lost in the story of Gurku, let me say that Markus still hosts 20 people in his home and he continues to covet time with his family and his wife. Still giving up his bed for others, he is a servant for sure, with much sacrifice.

Visiting Gurku Interfaith Camp (January 2016)

Visiting Gurku Interfaith Camp (January 2016)

The interfaith camp at Gurku

When our group visited the interfaith camp at Gurku there were 70 families living there, both Muslim and Christians, all displaced by the violence in the Northeast.  They had a church building started and were beginning to build a mosque.  The people worked together to make their own bricks and helped each other build their homes.  They have an infirmary and a brick oven for the widows to bake muffins to sell.  Now there are 170 families living at Gurku.  The widows have their own living area and a fish pond.  They just finished harvesting the fish and smoking them for eating and selling.  The church has been completed with windows and doors, and a tile floor.  They have also built a guest house at the site.  This community is very close to Markus’ heart and in the future he would like to move his family to this community to live and work with them.  He often thinks of a day when he can spend his time raising his family.  Markus will say that he never planned to build an interfaith camp, but out of the need for a place for all the displaced people the community has been developing with support and leadership from many people.

Who are the Boko Haram?

I am no expert, but I have learned in the past two weeks that Boko Haram was born out of poverty, lack of resources, food, and they are fellow Nigerians, brothers and cousins and yes relatives to the people we have met in the EYN.  Nigeria had been suffering from lack of food and a poor economy since 2009.  Somehow Boko Haram has been able to obtain weapons, food and money.  They have ways of employing others to work for them and since the economy is so depressed people will agree to work for them before they even know what they signed up for.  So indeed Boko Haram includes people in each community that are known by members of EYN;  people they have gone to school with, met in the market, and members of their own family.  Markus shared his mother was held by the Boko Haram for nine months. He did not know if she was dead or alive.  Her own grandson came to her numerous times intending to kill her.  And so yes, religious ideology is part of the Boko Haram, but it is also political and economical as well.   As I think of the Chibok girls, I am realizing it is a very complicated situation. It leads me to the scripture Markus was sharing and struggling with on this trip.  “You shall love your enemies, pray for those that hurt you.”   Markus asked us to think about who are our enemies?  Can you name them?  Did Jesus know what Nigeria was going to go through when he said love your enemies?  What should they do when they recognize the man that killed their husband, or slaughtered their baby?  What should you do when you face them in the market?  Markus and others covet our prayers and our wisdom, inspiration and strength to help them to love their enemies because as human beings it is extremely difficult to forgive and love.  I can only suggest that it is the Christ in us that allows us to be able to look upon another person who has harmed us and hurt us so deeply, and to respond with grace, love and forgiveness.  It is not us alone that can forgive and love, but the power of Christ in us that gives us the strength to not retaliate.  Markus challenged people to give to him the wisdom of how to respond to enemies.  He was searching for answers, for strength, for our prayers and support.

Markus in a tractor

Markus in a tractor

Building the Church in Nigeria through a tractor?

Each day of our journey with Markus was filled with moments of deep sharing, wondering and dreaming.  It was good.  It was exhausting.  As we traveled from farm to farm, and drove from Elizabethtown to McPherson College, a dream started to develop in our car.  Markus was learning more and more about farming, preparing the soil, tractors.   And then we started thinking how would a tractor in Nigeria change the ability of the people to plant more crops.  And with each new farm and farmer we met we asked more questions.  We researched tractors in Nigeria, and a proposal began to take shape.  And although it is still only a dream, a possibility, it is exciting to think about building the church in Nigeria with a tractor.  We have learned that Nigeria is the third worst country for famine.  In the northeast and even in the camps closer to the center of the country the people do not have enough food to eat.  People are dying in the camps every week for lack of food.  A tractor would be helpful in preparing the soil for planting.  Right now all farming is done by hand.  In some areas the bush is being tilled for the first time and it is very hard work.  If the tractor could disk the ground, the people could plant more crops and harvest more food.  They would have more food to eat and to share with their neighbors.  They would have seeds to save to plant for the next year.  Some of the crops could be sold and the money used to pay for hospital needs, school fees for their children and placed in the church offering.  Many people are not going to church because they have nothing to give to the offering.  Pastors are not being paid because the people are in crisis and do not have much to give. Over 1600 churches have been burned and destroyed in the northeast.  Pastors are out of work.  We do not even know where some pastors are located presently, dead or alive.  People are settling new areas of Nigeria and the church is growing as host communities join displaced EYN members.   If people had more money to give to the church, they could pay their pastors and have money to rebuild the buildings that were destroyed and build new buildings in new communities.  They would feel good about being about to support their families and community.

Each day I shed tears of compassion for the far reaching effects of crisis.  I learned how complicated counties, people, churches, governments and systems can be.  How overwhelming the needs.  How faithful God’s people are all over the world.  I continue to witness the power of prayer, the faithfulness of God’s mercy.

 

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