Brethren and Ecumenical Partners Continue Support for Nigeria and the Abducted Girls

A round up of news tidbits from this past week, demonstrating a variety of ways in which Brethren congregations and districts have been offering prayer and support for Nigerian Brethren and the abducted schoolgirls. Also below: statements of support from ecumenical partners, as well as media interviews and stories with links to find them online:

Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren

— Short video interviews with Carl and Roxane Hill, who returned from Nigeria last Wednesday, are available at www.brethren.org/partners/nigeria/news.html . The Hills have completed their term of service as Church of the Brethren mission workers and teachers at Kulp Bible College, a school of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). They flew back to the US in time for the church planting conference in Richmond, Ind., last week where Brethren videographer David Sollenberger taped their responses to five quick questions about their work and the current situation in Nigeria. The Hills are interested in becoming church planters in the United States, as their next mission venture. In the series of short video clips they answer these questions: How is the EYN Compassion fund helping? What is EYN’s response to the violence? Does it seem like EYN is being targeted? What is inspiring about EYN’s response to the violence? What did EYN leadership do to assure the safety of Carl and Roxane? Newsline will feature an interview with the Hills in next week’s issue.

— “Brethren rally to support kidnapped Nigerian girls” is the title of a “Mennonite World Review” interview with Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger on May 19. The interview by Tim Huber gives an overview of how Brethren in the US have responded to the abduction of the schoolgirls from Chibok, and how the American Brethren are supporting the Nigerian Brethren during this time of crisis. Noffsinger speaks about the faith of the Nigerian church, what Brethren can do through prayer,  and the giving to relief efforts for refugees fleeing the violence in Nigeria. find the interview at http://mennoworld.org/2014/05/19/brethren-rally-to-support-kidnapped-nigerian-girls .

— Ephrata (Pa.) Church of the Brethren designated its entire Sunday morning offering on Mother’s Day, May 11, to the EYN Compassion Fund. Senior pastor Galen Hackman reported in an e-mail to denominational staff that the offering totaled over $18,000, with more expected to be received over the following week. The congregation also collected notes of encouragement to send to EYN.

— Gerald and Lois Neher who served in Chibok, Nigeria, with the Church of the Brethren Mission in the 1950s, were interviewed by their local newspaper, the McPherson (Kan.) Sentinel. The couple, who are in their 80s, also have been interviewed by the BBC and the Daily  Beast. The interview by Sentinel staff writer Carla Barber was posted May. 13, and includes a large photo of the couple. “The Nehers not only are familiar with the Chibok; they wrote the book on them,” the interview notes. “We probably knew these girls’ grandparents and great-grandparents,” Gerald told the reporter. The Nehers became mission workers in Nigeria after attending McPherson College, and after Gerald earned a master’s degree in extension services from Cornell University. The newspaper reports that they spent four years working in Chibok, and a total of 14 years in Nigeria, from 1954-68. Read the full interview at www.mcphersonsentinel.com/article/20140513/News/140519814#ixzz32CIvwtph .

— “Local church to hold prayer service for kidnapped Nigerian girls” was the title of a video segment from Fox Channel 10 news in Phoenix, Ariz., posted May 11. FOX 10’s Jill Monier reported on a Circle of Peace Church of the Brethren service for the Nigerian girls who were kidnapped on April 14 by Boko Haram. The Circle of Peace Church is located in Peoria, Ariz. View the video news segment at www.myfoxphoenix.com/Clip/10150205/local-church-to-hold-prayer-service-for-kidnapped-nigerian-girls#ixzz32CGNtEOy .

— “Bring Back Our Girls: A Night of Compassion and Action” is planned for May 27, 7-8:30 p.m., in Littleton, Colo., sponsored by Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren and friends. The event is a Nigeria fundraiser, and will include a video update, food, and a silent auction. All money raised will go to the EYN Compassion Fund to help victims of Boko Haram violence, said an announcement from the church. For more information or to donate money or items for the auction, contact Sarah Leatherman Young at 720-530-7299 or Gail Erisman Valeta at 720-290-7044.

— Southern Ohio District has shared a prayer request from Nigeria originally received by Larry Heisey of the Brethren Heritage Center in Brookeville, Ohio. The prayer request was sent by one of the Nigerian Brethren group who attended the Brethren World Assembly last year at the Brethren Heritage Center. She wrote, in part: “Dear Brother Larry, thank you very much for your concern for us. It’s really a thing of joy when we hear encouraging words from brethren. It’s really a thing of joy to know that brethren all over the world are with us at this trying time. My brother, we really need your prayers. We know that the Lord knows why this thing is happening, but we the human beings cannot…. Many of our people are getting discouraged but the word of God is waxing strong. The mystery of the kidnap of the Chibok school girls remain perplexing to us. Chibok is about 30 kilometers from my home village, we all feel the pains because relations are there and friends also. Many of our villages have been rampaged, churches burnt, homes destroyed and people fled their villages. Many of the brethren are in refugee camps…. Continue in prayer with us until the insurgents stop terrorizing children of God.”

— In more news from Southern Ohio District, the Lower Miami congregation is inviting the district to a prayer vigil for Nigeria on May 21, at 7 p.m. “You are all welcome to come to this service or to join in prayer at this hour wherever you may be,” the district e-mail announced.

— Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren held a Wednesday evening candle lighting service in its Peace/Memory Garden last week, after a meal and Bible study, to gather to pray for the Nigerian girl assigned to their congregation for prayer.

— Week of Compassion–the relief, refugee, and development mission fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the US and Canada–has given $2,000 to the EYN Compassion Fund. The gift is designated for use by the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria or EYN) to support the families of the girls abducted from the school in Chibok. Week of Compassion also posted a statement on its website on May 15 titled, “‘Our Girls’ and Our Churches: Putting Compassion into Action; Partnering to #Bringbackourgirls.” The statement said, in part, “Many of the 200 girls were members of the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN), an independent Nigerian denomination with roots in the Church of the Brethren, a longtime ecumenical partner of Week of Compassion and fellow member of Church World Service. As part of our commitment to respond to human need all over the world and to work ecumenically, Week of Compassion has responded through the EYN Compassion Fund…. Our ecumenical commitment makes a real difference all over the world. Your generosity-no matter the season-makes an impact in even the most dire of situations.” Read the full statement at www.weekofcompassion.org/our-impact .

— A “Do Justice” blog of the Christian Reformed Church’s Center for Public Dialogue and Office of Social Justice has posted a reflection on “The Boko Haram Kidnappings’ CRC Connection,” written by Ron Geerlings, Christian Reformed World Missions’ West Africa Regional Director since 1987, and Peter Vander Meulen, World Renew’s Regional Director for West Africa 1988-95. The post notes the authors’ personal connections with the northeast of Nigeria, and the connections with EYN and the Church of the Brethren. “As the facts came in, the connections strengthened,” the post notes, in part. “The girls–who are mostly Christian–are largely from families who are members of the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa Nigeria (EYN), a Nigerian denomination that grew out of Church of the Brethren mission work. EYN is a thriving, growing church known for its peaceful, simple, and productive approach to life. The Christian Reformed Church has partnered and invested in this church and in this remote spot in Nigeria. We supported effective, Nigerian-led programs in Agriculture and HIV-AIDS.” The authors go on to provide an analysis of the situation of Nigeria that may be helpful to Brethren readers in the US. “We noted that this particular incident is not really a strange anomaly,” they write, in part. “It is rather the result of a host of negative factors that, taken together, have for years dragged down the people of a country that is among the wealthiest and best educated in Africa…. Nigeria had its share of development, political, and justice issues before Boko Haram came on the scene. And given their complexity, these issues will remain after the threat of Boko Haram has been eliminated.” Read the full reflection at http://dojustice.crcna.org/article/boko-haram-kidnappings-crc-connection#.U3fROsqpNZk.facebook .

— A post on the Mennonite Church USA Facebook page has requested prayer for the girls abducted from Chibok and their families, as part of “our global Anabaptist family.” The post, which has been widely shared, read: “Please pray for the 230 Nigerian girls who disappeared on April 14. ‘Most of the affected families are part of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria,’ a part of our global Anabaptist family.” The Mennonite Church USA also shared one of the Church of the Brethren news articles about Nigeria.