By Zakariya Musa
Joel S. Billi, president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), is calling on members to be strong with endurance in times of hardship. He said this in a sermon during the granting of church autonomy to the Lumba congregation on Sunday, Nov. 13. This is the sixth granting of church autonomy by the present EYN administration, and is to a church established from EYN’s LCC (Local Church Council) Mararaba church in the DCC [district of] Hildi.
EYN leaders also have been continuing their “Sympathy, Reconciliation and Encouragement Tour” and in early November visited Gulak in Madagali Local Government of Adamawa State. Billi and his entourage was received by a crowd of followers who cued up some kilometers away from LCC Gulak, singing praises to God, dancing in appreciation for the day.
The president in a sermon encouraged Christians to reconcile with everyone, quoting from the Bible, “God reconciled us to himself…” through Christ Jesus. He charged all to live in harmony, sharing what we have with those that don’t have. “Don’t point fingers at anybody. Let’s forgive those who miss calculate their target,” he said. “God has made us sons of peace.”
He appreciated Christians in the area for their faith in the face of insurgency and thanked the security agents in an area. He called on the members to appreciate security agents with anything they can afford as they work to restore peace and order among the communities. He also informed the gathering of the 21 Chibok school girls recent release, [saying they were] “very strong in their faith.”
EYN has four District Church Councils (DCCs) in the area–Madagali, Gulak, Wagga, and Mildlu–where some still can’t sleep in their homes. They gathered at the destroyed Local Church Council along with their members, though some could not come for security reasons and distance.
The DCC secretaries presented their situation to the leadership as follows:
— DCC Gulak: 14 pastors, 29 churches burnt, 70 houses burnt, 127 people killed, 44 people abducted and 7 missing, 29 LCCs/LCBs.
— DCC Mildlu: 15 pastors, 9 churches burnt, 11 houses burnt, 69 people killed, 26 people abducted including 7- and 9-year-old girls, 14 LCCs/LCBs.
— DCC Wagga: 13 pastors, 14 LCCs/LCBs.
— DCC Madagali: 11 pastors, 4 churches and an LCB burnt, 30 people killed, 4 people abducted.
DCC Gulak reported that 40 percent of church members have returned. They enumerated their key needs as food, health services, and more security. Some pastors don’t get salaries [but] continue with evangelism despite the hardship.
“Mildlu was attacked more than eight times from May to August 2016,” the DCC secretary reported. Many have fallen and died. DCC Mildlu thanked EYN for food assistance through the Disaster Relief Ministry. Pastors are working day and night [they said].
A member from LCC Wagga and DCC Wagga reported that 300 to 400 members meet every Sunday for worship. Some of the churches in Ghabala and Wagga had holy Communion with 244 and 200 communicant members. Further up the mountain, they said they have hosted other LCCs throughout the insurgency period.
One speaker gave a testimony that their church was not burnt and asked for more prayer for protection.
The EYN general secretary informed the audience that as a result of the tour, which enabled the EYN president to talk to HE Kashim Shettima, the Borno State government has formed a committee to rebuild churches in southern Borno. “Abin mamaki Musulmi na gina Ekklesiya,” meaning, “What a surprise! Muslims building churches.”
The EYN vice president at the end of the occasion applauded Christians for their courage to return home. “This is your land where shall we go again,” he said.
Special prayers were offered for the country, the church leadership, the traumatized, and those that lost their relatives.
In other news from EYN
The denomination’s Integrated Community Based Development Program (ICBDP) organized a three-day workshop for facilitators of a Church and Community Mobilization Process whose activities are sponsored by the Tear Fund, UK.
According to director James T. Mamza, the event comes as a result of some workshops attended by the department staff who will now “stepdown” the knowledge to the CCMP facilitators. Mamza praised the achievement. “We have met the target of 60 co-facilitators that we have proposed to train,” he said. One of the topics treated on the first day of the workshop was a Contingency Planning Process on Emergency Preparedness.
— Zakariya Musa serves on the communications staff of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).