Reports from Nigeria: Returning Home

By Cliff Kindy, Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer who wrote this while in Nigeria. He has since returned home safely.

The dynamics of the violence in Nigeria are changing dramatically in the recent weeks. Boko Haram has lost the momentum that they previously had in waging battles where they chose and usually overcoming any opposition. They have been unable to hold the initiative in any recent conflicts. They have sustained heavy losses, had hundreds of fighters arrested by Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad. Their camps and headquarters have been overrun by Nigerian troops supported by heavy air bombardment.

Boko Haram fighters are scattered but in their frustration are striking out at any soft targets. So places like Chibok are again facing attacks from those groups. An EYN member from Chibok reported that Boko Haram had gone door to door in that community killing inhabitants and burning houses. Suicide bombings are scattered across the north of Nigeria. Individuals carry out those bombings – one seven year old girl was strapped with a bomb and the other recent suicide attack was a man boarding a long distance bus when his explosives detonated. But Boko Haram is no longer able to rally large forces for any major attacks. There are even reports that Nigeria has arrested the Boko Haram leadership.

With these changing dynamics and some communities protected by Nigerian security for a couple months already, individuals and families are anxious to return home. But what does that mean on the ground?

They return with nothing in most cases. Where do they start? What do they eat? Where will there be protection from the rains that have arrived in Jos? What about tools? Seeds? Animals? Electricity? Community infrastructure?

Homes have been burned. Churches are leveled, clinics bombed. Belongings have been looted and carried off. There are no longer stores or shops in most communities. Bridges are destroyed. Cars were stolen. Tools are missing or unusable. Wells in some communities have dead bodies in them. Maybe the departing Boko Haram raiders left explosives to greet returnees. Energy is sapped by the original trauma and there is new trauma facing those returning home.

Government is not likely to generate the massive aid needed in this kind of situation. Relief aid will only make a small dent in the total rebuilding of society that will be required. How does a community gather the united energy required to begin the process of starting over from scratch?

Churches thrive on hope. The love of the church provides encouragement and support when everything is at the bottom. Just as the early church in Acts lived an alternative reality from the Roman political system, so that will be true today with a church like EYN in Nigeria. The woman who told me about Chibok under attack again will be among the leaders of the trauma healing group that crisscrosses EYN in Nigeria and Cameroon.

Returning home will start with little steps from NGOs like Women and Youth Empowerment for Advancement and Health Initiative supplying families with machines to generate income, animals and seeds for providing food. Other NGOs like Lifeline Compassionate Global Initiatives through their interfaith efforts with displaced families are building the relationships for healed societies that will be required if communities will succeed in overcoming enormous obstacles. Both of these NGOs are among others that are funded by the Church of the Brethren through Brethren Disaster Ministries.

The Crisis Management Team of EYN is still doing emergency feeding, is just starting on building temporary housing for displaced families and is ready to begin the training of a large cadre of trauma trainers who face an enormously daunting task. At the same time the Team is helping EYN itself recover from the total displacement of its organization. But what lies ahead is larger by far than all they have tackled thus far. Re-establishing devastated communities from scratch is nearly impossible for strong organizations that have done the work previously, but for a group like EYN which has no experience in disaster response, can it even be imagined?!?

Yes, the hard work of thinking ahead is started in EYN. Church of the Brethren volunteers are walking alongside EYN. The experience of EYN-related NGOs can pave the way for larger responses. EYN is a strong church with creative leaders. EYN’s reliance on God’s care and leading will cover many stumbles in the months and years ahead. The future is rising from the ashes. People are returning home.

Reports from Nigeria: God’s Distribution

God's Distrib in Bui Blog

Congregation at EYN church in Biu where distribution took place.

By Cliff Kindy, Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer who recently returned from Nigeria

Three Crisis Team members traveled to Biu on a Saturday at the end of February to complete a relief distribution. One day earlier it had appeared as though the process might fall through. Vehicle plans were not coming together and finances seemed to be held up even though approval for the funds had taken place a couple weeks earlier.

Our driver picked me up at eight Saturday morning. One of the two DCC secretaries from Biu was traveling with the Team. We stopped to pick up the other two team members as we drove out of Jos. There had been some question whether it was safe for me, a very visible white person, to travel into this region that had experienced Boko Haram attacks several places along the route.

The road deteriorated as we traveled through three states before reaching Borno State. The last two hours were slow because of heavily potholed road surface. There were regular security check points and occasional vigilante road blocks to supplement government patrols. Around Gombe and as we neared Biu there were increasing signs of the Boko Haram suicide bombings and fire attacks against check point sites, police stations, a hospital and a gas station close to an intersection with another security checkpoint.

When we arrived at the EYN LCC #1 Biu compound most of the supplies were already on site, delivered by a local EYN businessman the Team had called the evening before. We still did not have definite numbers for the EYN displaced families or individuals. There were some outdated pages recording IDPs but the numbers we started hearing from the two DCC secretaries were much higher than we had figured because of recent attacks on EYN communities outside of BIU.

We asked congregations during their worship at the six nearby churches to announce our plans for a 1PM relief distribution. All of these churches were hosting IDPs in the churches or with families. When the one o’clock time arrived the church building was packed with people and others were outside.

We had decided the night before to ask for just one representative from each family to attend the distribution and had decided that we only might have enough supplies for one item per family – a big bag of rice, a larger bag of maize or a box containing packages of noodles. We also had boxes of soap and we intended to give two bars to each family. To make the process smoother we made tickets, color coded and numbered for the total supply of the three items.

With the crowds of people before us Sunday afternoon we considered providing one item for every two families. We were worried that the distribution could deteriorate quickly. Then three ideas surfaced in rapid succession. 1) We would prioritize displaced pastors. 2) Widows would also receive priority. 3) We would start handing out tickets (each family representative picked a ticket from a bag), starting with people ages sixty to seventy and keep moving down a decade until all tickets were gone. That ticket indicated which item they would receive and the order in which they could collect the item.

It meant some expectant persons would not receive one of the three food items but it would be the younger persons who could more easily find jobs in the city to provide food. At the start there was a mass push toward the supplies but with local helpers we were able to make clear that the distribution would start with the order of numbers from inside the church.  Inside the church was also much cooler than the hot sun out in the courtyard.

Even with the kinks in the process and a long careful explanation to make the process clear at the beginning over one thousand people received supplies within three hours. One serendipitous event was deciding to not hand out soap to each family. This meant that there was sufficient soap to give three bars to even the individuals who had not received a ticket and others who were waiting hopefully in the courtyard outside the church.

As the distribution proceeded many recipients thanked us for the process and for assuring that everyone received something. It was a team effort that accomplished the distribution task. The DCC secretaries were key to the process. The youth brigade supplied the manpower to move food items to recipients. Local church staff provided escort and number checking for each group of ten people moving from inside the church to the warehouse distribution center. Vigilante volunteers provided security for the courtyard. And the Team of three provided coordination of the process. The patience and good humor of the recipients was essential for a smooth flow during the distribution. As one of the DCC secretaries commented, “The process was an act of God. I was worried when I saw so many potential pitfalls in the distribution.”

Giving is a privilege

One Great Hour of Sharing Photo by Craig Thompson

One Great Hour of Sharing
Photo by Craig Thompson

An adaptation of an offertory meditation written by Amy Gopp for the 2015 One Great Hour of Sharing

“They voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:3-4).

During what the Apostle Paul calls a “severe ordeal of affliction,” the early churches of Macedonia somehow managed to “overflow in a wealth of generosity” for their sisters and brothers in need. Their own extreme poverty combined with their abundant joy resulted in this overflow, and as Paul testifies, they not only gave according to their means, they gave beyond their means. Yes, beyond their means! Even more remarkable, they actually begged to share in the “ministry to the saints.” Giving is a privilege.

Have you ever imagined what it would be like not to be able to give?

But God provides all we need, enabling us to be in a constant posture of giving. All that is ours is God’s, so everyone has a gift to give. God does not leave anyone out.

God has created a world where there is more than enough; the sheer joy of that blessing is sharing it! Giving back to God is a matter of faith—it is the natural reaction to our saying “yes!” to following Christ. Once you know the invincible love of God and the Good News of the Gospel, you can’t help but share it. In the sharing of your resources, you are living out your confession of faith as followers of Jesus the Christ.

For well over six decades, we have been putting our faith into action and making a difference, alongside literally millions of other Christians throughout North America, through One Great Hour of Sharing. This offering helps empower people across the nation and around the world.

Praise be to God!

Giving itself is a gift. A privilege. An opportunity to respond to God’s outpouring of love for you.

Giving through One Great Hour of Sharing not only changes the lives of individuals and communities in need, it changes the world.

Join our ministry of saints as we receive our offering. Let’s overflow in a wealth of generosity and feel our own hearts, minds, and lives change just as we help to improve and transform the lives of others. Amen.

One Great Hour of Sharing is a special opportunity for you and your congregation to support the life-changing ministries of the Church of the Brethren. Find worship resources for this year’s offering at www.brethren.org/oghs or give now at www.brethren.org/giveoghs .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Reports from Nigeria: A phone report from Cliff Kindy

Phone Report from Cliff Kindy to Carl and Roxane Hill on Feb. 3, 2015. Cliff is currently a Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer reporting from Nigeria.

  • Cliff is helping organize a
    Cliff at Garku

    Cliff Kindy (right) volunteering in Nigeria. Photo courtesy of EYN Nigeria.

    Peace and Democracy Conference in Yola: promoting civic responsibility as the national elections draw near (scheduled for 14 February)

  • He will accompany delegates from the Swiss Embassy as they visit IDP (internally displaced persons) camps in Yola and survey the conditions in Mubi
  • Boko Haram insurgents continue their campaign of fear with bomb blasts in Gombe where President Goodluck Jonathan was campaigning earlier this week
  • Cliff has been instrumental in encouraging and participating in various Trauma Healing workshops – Mennonite Central Committee is sponsoring one for EYN leadership this week, helping these leaders to lead despite the trauma they may be experiencing
  • Cliff received reports that the Nigerian military attacked Boko Haram headquarters in the Sambisa Forest. With the successful defense of the city of Maiduguri, it appears that Boko Haram is being limited to hit-and-run tactics
  • With Cliff’s encouragement, EYN’s director of education has established a teacher-training program and set up locations to begin teaching at the five IDP camps in Jos
  • Cliff is asking for prayers for his mother who was recently hospitalized
  • Continued prayer for Cliff’s safety and health as he continues his important work in Nigeria
  • Lastly, as most of us are digging out of the recent snow storm, Cliff is enduring 100-degree heat with failing electricity and fighting mosquitoes in humid east Nigeria – way to go, Cliff!

Reports from Nigeria: Progress Report for the Week of Jan 26, 2015

PROGRESS in our Nigeria Crisis Response

  • New Headquarters for EYN has been established
  • EYN staff have been housed and their children have been enrolled in local schools
  • Building of staff housing is going on at Headquarters
  • 2 trucks were purchased to use in the distribution of food and construction supplies
  • Lifeline Interfaith project – 100 Christian and Muslim families are being settled, water bore hole was dug, building of semi-permanent houses has commenced
  • Food was distributed to over 12,000 displaced persons in the last 2 weeks
  • Land has been purchased and is being cleared for care centers for the displaced people
  • WYEAHI (Women and Youth Empowerment For Advancement & Health Initiative) – has begun registration for the sustainability projects
  • Numerous trauma healing seminars for pastors, men and women have been held (Mennonite Central Committee in Nigeria is assisting in this effort)
Lifelines Interfaith project Jan 2015

Building houses at the Lifelines Interfaith project. Photo courtesy of EYN Nigeria.

EYN staff quarters at HQ 1.28.14

Building of the staff quarters at EYN Headquarters. Photo courtesy of EYN Nigeria.

 

 

WYEAHI IDP registration table

Registration table with WYEAHI staff busy registering the Internally Displaced Persons. Photo courtesy of EYN Nigeria.

Aishatu, head of WYEAHI

Aishatu, head of WYEAHI, with two Muslim women among those that came for registration. Photo courtesy of EYN Nigeria.

Highlighting WYEAHI (Women and Youth Empowerment For Advancement & Health Initiative)
Aishatu Margima is the Executive Director of the NGO (Non-government organization). She will be assisting in the Nigeria Crisis by providing sustainability projects to displaced persons especially women who are widowed or separated from their husbands. These sustainability projects will include setting them up in small business ventures i.e. sewing machines, grinding machines, cooking & selling food items, giving animals for breeding and selling, and providing farming assistance with seeds, plows, and fertilizer. The first step in this process was an information session where Aishatu told about her program and registered individuals. This first session was completed at a church and both Muslims and Christians were successfully registered. One challenge is that funds are limited and she can only help so many; the organization will first concentrate on the most vulnerable.

Snapshots  (edited for grammar and security)
Amina
“Tragedy befell me during the insurgency attack in Maiduguri, Borno State of Nigeria on Tuesday 2nd October, 2014. On that fateful day they attacked, my beloved husband and two (2) of my lovely children were slaughtered before my naked eyes. They (the Boko Haram) took away our two cars and all valuable things in our house and left me a widow with five children.”

Maria testified that she has not seen her husband since the Michika crisis (July 2014). She is left with her kids and she is now six months pregnant.

Reports from Nigeria: A Rocky Beginning

Article by Cliff Kindy, Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer reporting from Nigeria

trauma workshop used 1.22.15

Photo by Cliff Kindy.

The EYN church at Vinikilang was the first city congregation as EYN intentionally expanded from the country and the smaller villages in about 1978. The meeting place is a large structure in the shape of a cross with roof trusses built like others I have seen only near North Manchester, IL, as in a former barn of Harold and Rosemary Bolinger. The space will hold up to 1500 people easily. [One pastor noted to the writer that in his district the smallest of the twelve churches that Boko Haram had leveled as they destroyed his district completely was larger than Vinikilang.] This structure is built on a massive outcropping of rock that rises above the Benue River which cuts through this portion of Nigeria.

Vinikilang #1 was the site of the first trauma healing workshop led by Rev. Toma Ragnjiya and his assistant Dlama. Providing opportunities to heal from the trauma implicit in the tragedy that has overwhelmed EYN is a focus of the Crisis Management Team. Rev. Toma has taken on this task as director of the Peace Program of EYN. This was the first of the ongoing trauma healing workshops that are taking place.

Thirty-four mostly displaced pastors were there for this three-day workshop on top of the rock. Themes of the training ranged from stress, trauma, anger and grief to trust and healing from trauma with ample time for sharing personal experiences with each other. Stress, anger and grief are normal human emotions but trauma is an emotional experience that overwhelms the human capacity to recover. What are the steps that help individuals and groups move through trauma to trust, acceptance and healing? How can pastors facilitate that process for their families, congregations and communities?

At the end of the first day one pastor noted, “My blood pressure has dropped significantly. I am no longer carrying immense anger toward Boko Haram.” Participants were invited to imagine Boko Haram fighters also dealing with trauma, perhaps sitting with them in the same circle.

Rev. Toma estimates that trauma has impacted hundreds of thousands of people in EYN alone. There is a long road ahead for their communities in northeast Nigeria, but these first steps were taken before Christmas, 2014 on the rocky outcropping above the Benue River near Yola.

For more information on the Church of the Brethren Nigeria Crisis Response or to donate, visit www.nigeriacrsis.org.

New steps in the new year

Where will God lead you in 2015? Photo by Glenn Riegel

Where will God lead you in 2015?
Photo by Glenn Riegel

By Matt DeBall, coordinator of Donor Communications

January can be a great time for setting goals and reflecting; a time to observe our steps from last year and chart a new path for this year. We might make personal challenges related to fitness, nutrition, recreation, relationships, or finances, but sometimes we also receive challenges from God.

God has surely given great challenges to others in the past. For Abraham, God called him to leave his family and explore a foreign land filled with unfamiliar people. For Esther, God led her to a new role and called her to take a great risk to save her people. For both, the choice was available to reject God’s call, but by trusting in God and summoning a great amount of courage, they stepped forward and accepted God’s challenge.

In 2015, there are many events and opportunities to partake in ministry through the Church of the Brethren. Perhaps God is calling you to participate in one or more of the following ways:

Pray for our international partners by receiving the weekly Global Mission Prayer Guide.

Grow by attending a transformative conference like the Intercultural Gathering, Young Adult Conference, National Junior High Conference, Annual Conference, and National Older Adult Conference.

Serve through Brethren Volunteer Service for a year-long project, attend a summer workcamp of the Workcamp Ministry, or spend a week at a disaster project of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Give to support the continued work of the many life-changing ministries of the Church of the Brethren.

Like Abraham and Esther, we have the choice to remain where we are or to follow where God is leading. While it would be easier to carry on in 2015 just as we did in 2014, God may be challenging us to do something new. May we listen to the Spirit of God, step forward in faith, and trust God to guide our steps in the coming year.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

A Nigerian’s Response to Baga News

by Carl Hill, co-director, Nigeria Crisis Response

Many stories are coming out of Nigeria concerning the violence in the Northeast part of the country. This is where the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, has been carrying out a destructive campaign to eliminate all who oppose their plan to create an Islamic “Caliphate” in this mostly Muslim populated region. Christians, especially those associated with EYN, have been one of the major targets of this uncontained violence. Killings, kidnappings, burning of villages and looting are just a part of their fear tactics bent on clearing the area of all opposition. Moderate Muslims are not safe either.

Here, in America, it is difficult to know which news stories are accurate and which ones are just exaggerations?  After being in Nigeria over the last two years, our opinion is that much of what we read in the papers and on-line in not totally reliable. For instance, many of the news stories published comes from reporters based in Abuja (the Capitol) or Lagos (a large modern city located in the far South West of the country). This would be like getting breaking stories of Ferguson, Missouri from a reporter based in Miami, Florida or Los Angeles, California? While the story may have some basis in fact, more reliable reporting would come from a reporter much closer to the scene of action.

One of the things we are trying to provide with blog posts is to publish stories from our people in Nigeria! This could be a human interest story from American volunteers (like Cliff Kindy who is there now) or from Nigerians who have proven to us to be reliable sources of information.

Last week, many of you read about a massacre in a border town called Baga. Reports came in that the worst massacre in this long struggle took place there? I contacted our man in Nigeria, knowing that he had connections in both the Muslim community as well as the Christian one. Below is his communication he sent regarding events in Baga and the surrounding area. The bottom line is that the situation in Northern Nigeria remains very unstable. As the Church, we need to continue to pray for all those embroiled in this senseless violence. This includes the misguided members of the Boko Haram. It appears that only through the intervention of God Himself will this crisis ever find resolution.

Dear brother,
Greetings to you from cold Jos.
Baga is a town that majors in fish business.  Most of the fish we get from Chad basin comes through Baga. Baga is a big border (town) where most forces have their offices there. Forces from Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria (have been reported) to be there. My junior brother from Maiduguri told me that the whole town was overrun by BH  (Boko Haram) and many people were killed.  Since the beginning of August to December most Christians left the town because of fear and (the) threat from BH.

About the kidnapping and killing:  No forces will tell you the number of casualties because most of the military have run away, but we got some information from a few Muslims that are there.  Probably more than 200 people left dead and kidnappings have been going on daily.  The movement for forceful recruitment into BH for young people is almost everywhere now.  Women are kidnapped from almost every village and town.  The towns of Michika, Madagali, Gwoza and all other towns under the control of BH are facing kidnappings.

People that escaped from their custody will narrate their ordeal. God is helping lots of people coming out from different BH camps. Yola is collecting more and more people again.  Jos and Abuja is the final destination.

We have been working on reducing people in my house (at last count there was over 40) but we are getting more from Cameroon though most of them are in transit.

Na gode sosai (which means: “I thank you very much”)

Stories from Nigeria: Daniel

By Cliff Kindy, Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer reporting from Nigeria

Daniel has been a driver for EYN travelers since 2002. He is married with seven living children and lives with a brother who is also married and with one child. His mother is still living and is caring for nine other extended family members.

When Boko Haram raided EYN headquarters on October 29th Daniel escaped with all his family and ended up in Jos where he continues to work as a driver with EYN. But he had fields of beans and ground nuts near Mubi ready to harvest when he fled. He does not know if loose livestock have destroyed his harvest.

Daniel’s mother crossed into Cameroon for safety when Boko Haram ransacked the areas surrounding Mubi. Her group of ten has faced difficult conditions in the mountains of Cameroon because there has been no relief agencies or government assistance coming to the aid of these refugees. As returnees have reported, “We lived on leaves.” The ten people in her group just returned to the Yola area and are living in the IDP camps that have dramatically increased the usual Yola population. Daniel was able to visit his mother one day while the group he drives for was conducting a trauma healing workshop at an EYN congregation.

Though some families are slowly returning to Mubi, Daniel has his job in Jos which helps support the members of his and his brother’s families. He faces a difficult choice between the income-producing job in central Nigeria and the possible harvest and extended family back in the eastern part of Nigeria. What would you do if you were in his shoes?

CCEPI Distribution

By Cliff Kindy, BDM volunteer reporting from Nigeria

CCEPI Distribution 1.2.15 blog

Photo: Dr. Rebecca Dali (on left), Director of CCEPI, leading the distribution.

On December 10th the Center for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives (CCEPI) team gathered food supplies outside the temporary headquarters of EYN in central Nigeria. Displaced families had gathered and were already registered for ease in distribution. CCEPI is one of the EYN-connected NGOs that is being funded by Brethren Disaster Ministries through its Nigeria Relief appeal.

There was a rope outlining the area for supplies and CCEPI team to operate. Rebecca Dali, Director of the NGO, called out names and as families came to the rope each family received a plastic bucket, a large mat, twenty kilograms of maize, a blanket, two soaps and a bag of beans.

It was a colorful scene with bright scarves, children being nursed, other children playing in the clusters of people, a corner of elderly folks sitting patiently to receive some assistance and other hopeful, unregistered displaced folks waiting to see if supplies would stretch for them as well.

In the background the regular routine of the busy compound continued its usual pattern. EYN staff were in and out of their offices which were being spruced up with furniture to allow a more functional facility. A private school had delivered a huge load of relief supplies to the headquarters earlier that day. There were stacks of yams, toiletries, dried food goods and other edibles ready for distribution to the people displaced from the northeast of Nigeria.

Back at the rope around the CCEPI distribution circles of people were sharing with each other. An EYN pastor from Michika who had been hit by three bullets as Boko Haram moved into his home area in September was there, still healing. Though he had not registered he was hoping supplies would stretch to him.

A Church of Christ pastor and his wife were among those waiting. He had just finished an office management course and was returning home when Boko Haram reached his region. The family fled to Yola and then on to Jos when rumors of an impending attack on Yola spread. He was the one in the crowd advocating for the group of elderly patiently waiting at the edge of the circle. It seemed these elders were not on the registration list and he wanted them to get first opportunity at any extra supplies.

The distribution went smoothly for the over one hundred families. Having it off the road in a closed area with sufficient staff facilitated the process. Only a singing ZME choir (EYN women’s group) would have improved the setting!