Violence in the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri in February left three church buildings of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) completely destroyed and two more severely damaged. The General Board is inviting the denomination to join in a love offering for EYN to assist in reconstructing church buildings in Maiduguri and to support the Nigerian church’s peace and reconciliation efforts to heal the divisions in its communities.
The offering was initiatied by the General Board at its March meeting. “Many people have asked how we might help express our love and concern for the church in Nigeria,” reported Merv Keeney, executive director of Global Mission Partnerships for the Church of the Brethren General Board. “We now invite members and congregations to join this response of love and support for our Nigerian sisters and brothers, and also to aid them in the rebuilding and healing work that they are already undertaking among their neighbors,” he said. “As we walk with Christ toward the cross, we are aware of the empty tomb and the hope that is promised. Let us walk with the churches in Nigeria, reminding ourselves of our common faith and hope in Christ while renewing our bonds as sister churches on different continents.”
In the love offering taken at the General Board’s March meeting, the board received $7,723, including $5,000 from Western Pennsylvania District, brought to the meeting by district minister and Annual Conference moderator Ron Beachley. The board and other participants in the meeting also signed a letter to EYN expressing the desire to stand with them during this crisis. The letter read, in part:
“We pray for God’s healing of persons and families where there has been loss of life and injury. We pray for healing of the divisions in Nigerian society at this critical time. We pray for God’s strengthening and guidance of the Nigerian leadership and members as the church faces these serious threats. We pray that Christ’s message of peace and reconciliation, reclaimed anew by the Nigerian church at the Nairobi gathering of historic peace churches in 2004, might enliven and empower all within EYN to be instruments of Christ’s peace.
“Even as we seek to join hands, we confess that our experience and context leaves us unprepared and ill-equipped to face the type of challenges that the Nigerian church has been facing over these years,” the letter continued. “The persecution we faced as an emerging church movement in Europe three centuries ago is barely a memory. So we confess that our commitments to peace have not been tested in the ways that you have experienced…. In spite of feeling inadequate to stand alongside you as you face violence and suffering, we trust in God’s strength and love to empower us all to be bearers of Christ’s light and peace in this critical time.”
Congregations are invited to be in prayer for the church in Nigeria and to take a love offering during the Lent and Easter season. Checks may be made out to “Church of the Brethren General Board” designated on the memo line for “Love Offering–Nigeria Church.” It would be helpful if all funds could be mailed to the General Board by the first week of May, so the monies may be promptly made available in Nigeria. For more information contact Global Mission Partnerships at 800-323-8039.