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.
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.