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

 

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.

Trauma is personal. . . .

Pat Krabacher and Dr. Rebecca Samuel Dali

Pat Krabacher and Dr. Rebecca Samuel Dali

Contributed by Pat Krabacher -Pictures by team members

As we shared our Thursday morning breakfast we didn’t know that we would enter into the deep trauma of someone we cared deeply for, Joshua Ishaya. There is a saying by “Daniele Bernock, “Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams, healing can begin.”  Danielle Bernock, (author of Emerging with Wings: A True Story of Lies, Pain, and the Love That Heals)

Riding in the van to the Favored Sisters Christian Fellowship School, Joshua Ishaya, our EYN Fellowship Tour assistant, told us his story of trauma from recurring threats of attack and unimaginable violence he had experienced. First, the months of threatened attacks leading up to the BH attack on Oct. 29th 2014 at his alma mater, Kulp Bible School, Kwarhi/Mubi in Adamawa state. Joshua ran for his life on foot across rugged terrain, witnessing a friend dead in his car and hearing the gun shot and bombs all around him, arriving barefoot in a small village where help was received.

Joshua at Favored Sisters School

Joshua at Favored Sisters School

Four months later in Feb 2015, Joshua traveled from Jos to Kano by bus to stay with his sister. The bus arrived in Kano just before 3 pm, but because 3pm is the Muslim prayer time, the bus was not allowed to pass in front of the Kano Central Mosque which holds 5,000 worshipers. Three blasts went off at the Kano Central Mosque in close succession and Joshua saw bodies, body parts, and blood everywhere, as their bus was very near the Mosque. The images of death and destruction are still vivid in his mind 20 months later. The terror of retribution that was directed to Joshua as one of the few Christians in the vicinity of the Mosque was terrifying. For days, Joshua could not eat, sleep, or even write his name. He cried for hours once safe with his sister in Kano.

Four months later, in June 2015, Joshua was asked to help out at FSCF with the traumatized orphans. Their first day together, all the children could do was cry and Joshua also cried with them. On the second day he realized that he had to do something different so he began taking pictures of the children with his cell phone. They were desperate to see their own picture, so Joshua used his laptop to put the pictures into PowerPoint and show the children their pictures. Slowly the crying ended and a few small smiles emerged. Over the next two months Joshua entered the pain of the orphans and heard their silent screams, healing was beginning for many children.

Katie Ulm with the children

Katie Ulm with the children

One year later, Joshua and our FT visit to FSCF in Aug 2016 –  like a sweet reunion for many of the orphan children as there was great joy at seeing Joshua when we arrived! Our FT Visit to FSCF Orphanage & School started with sweet singing by the orphan children living at the school over the summer break. They sat in plastic chairs and seemed hesitant or unable to smile. Playing games, teaching how to throw a Frisbee, a quick football (soccer) game, painting popsicle sticks, drawing pictures, or just talking with and taking more pictures of John, Eve, Jason, Joy, Rahila, Sarah, Mary, Susan, Israel, Yuku, Vilto, and the many others was the order of the afternoon.  A simple visit that says to an orphan, ”You are important and loved, we came to see you.”,  seemed to bring more healing to the orphans and changed us as we shared in their pain. Before leaving we honored the FSCF Asst. Director and pastor Balla with the teal “We are one body in Christ shirts” for the great love that FSCF is extending in Jesus’ name to these EYN orphans. Pray for the many orphans in NE Nigeria. God is using Joshua’s deep trauma for His glory – Joshua has a calling into Youth Ministry – Praise God!

Adam Ulm with the orphans

Adam Ulm with the orphans

Take-Away Thought – Trauma is personal. . . . When someone enters the pain and hears the scream,s healing can begin. In a small way, the FT entered into the pain of Joshua and of the children at FSCF orphanage so hope and healing are taking place. We are family, the body of Christ, united in love. When our family suffers, we come together to be present and to love one another. As Zander Willowby  observed in his blog dtd 22 Jul 2016,  “A church is people stuck together by love.” http://blog.brethren.org/2016/a-church-is-people-stuck-together-by-love/

 

 

Reflections on the August Fellowship Tour (Part 2)

by Pat Krabacher

Non-identical twins. Pat and Dr. Rebecca

Non-identical twins. Pat and Dr. Rebecca

Aug 3, 2016 – “Care for the Widows and Orphans”

I awoke at 4 am this second day in Nigeria and my mind wandered to the next time that we would interact with children at an IDP camp. A hot breakfast was ably prepared by William in the Abuja Guest House. We finished packing for the one-hour trek south to Lafia, Nassarawa and then the 4-hour trek northeast to Jos, Plateau state.

Our opportunity to serve this day was at the CCEPI Widows Intake & Distribution – Lafia, Nassarawa state. Dr. Rebecca Dali has managed her NGO helping widows and orphans for 25 years. Dr. Rebecca anticipated 240 widows would come for the assistance in Lafia (which means ‘wellness’ or ‘good health’). We drove over roads that were “typical for Nigeria”, i.e. very bumpy with lots of pot holes to miss.

Arriving in Lafia we embarked from the van and were greeted by Dr. Rebecca and her CCEPI staff. Seeing my “non-identical twin” Sister, Dr. Rebecca was one of the sweet highlights for this writer. We have been friends for 4 years now and she is one of my dearest sisters in Christ.

CCEPI staff with 3 widows

CCEPI staff with 3 widows

We were provided a CCEPI vest and ball cap to wear while doing intake and distribution to the widows. It was overwhelming seeing the several hundred widows who needed to register to receive the assistance. Doing the intake was a bit challenging since many of the widows did not speak much English. What was special was being able to spend some one-on-one time with, and hugging the widows or otherwise encouraging them.  Many were young and typically had 4 or 5 children. After intake we each took a job in the distribution line giving each widow an item, e.g. bucket, a blanket, Maggi spice cubes, cooking oil, dish soap, salt, 10lb beans, and 50 lb corn. This resulted in the women walking home with the beans and corn on their heads and often with a baby on their backs!

The Lafia’s pastor’s wife and a few friends served us a very satisfying lunch of chicken, rice, watermelon and beverages. The 4 course lunch provided by the host church was typical of the “sacrificial generosity” we experienced all along our trek thru Nigeria.

Team at the Unity House in Jos

Team at the Unity House in Jos

After lunch we departed in the rain drops for Jos, Plateau state. The 4-hour. trek to Jos, brought us to the EYN Compound and ‘Unity House’ our ‘home away from home’. We stopped along the road to buy treats, bananas, and oranges from the roadside vendors. Arriving around 6 pm we were glad to have an opportunity to cook for ourselves at the EYN Jos Unity House. We had many of the comforts of home and wonderful space for the FT to relax in at Unity House. It had been a morning of service to the Widows and the two treks to Lafia, Nassarawa and then to Jos, Plateau.

Take-Away Thought – We had the honor to meet the widows and do the intake interview by filling out the CCEPI form for each widow served. Meeting IDPs that have lost everything makes violence “real’ and puts a life into the pain. A reminder that we are to care for widows and orphans as commanded in James 1:27. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress –

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.

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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.

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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.