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