Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hearts forever bonded: A reflection on visiting EYN in Nigeria.

Mim and I expected a faith venture/learning tour to Nigeria to be a stretching experience. We went to cultivate our sister relationship with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). We were not disappointed. A part of our hearts have been planted in Nigeria, and we will never be the same.

Our time there was not all glory. There were also bumpy roads--literally--and the challenge of trying to take in so much. We learned something of the deep challenges and struggles in Nigeria.

The question of how to be peacemakers in the midst of conflict was very real, with the outbreak of violence in the city of Jos only three days after we had been there.

When we were in Jos, we visited the Al-Bayan Islamic Secondary School. Would we have been able to visit the school, had Jos been scheduled later on our tour?

Although some EYN members will be involved in this peacemaking endeavor as it progresses--it is envisioned to include things like an interfaith microfinance project--it is not under the umbrella of EYN, so as not to be seen as evangelism in disguise. As important as evangelism is for Christians in Nigeria, there are times to humbly work at repairing the damage that has been done in the name of Jesus before the message of the love of Jesus can be heard.

Some members and leaders of EYN shared with us how hard it is for them to trust Muslims, while others talked about their courageous work as peacemakers and how they are cultivating relationships and programs with Muslims. These dynamics are wrestled with in two books: "Turn the Other Cheek" by pastor Ephraim Kadala and "Are There Limits to Pacifism: The Nigerian Dilemma" by professor Musa A. Mambula. We returned from Nigeria with books personally signed by these two authors, and hope they are widely read both in Nigeria and the US.

A trip to Maiduguri, where the largest EYN church was bombed on July 26, 2009, by Muslim fundamentalists was sobering, but the church has grand plans for rebuilding. It is the mother church of some 20 congregations in the area. I felt a tragic sadness as we walked on the ground where the Nigerian military forces had later crushed and destroyed the whole complex where the headquarters of the fundamentalist Muslim sect had been.

Our last two nights in Nigeria we again stayed in Jos, where there was still a curfew from 6 p.m.-6 a.m. and many military and police check points around the city. Sitting under a tree on that last evening with James, a pastor, and EYN district secretary Daniel, I asked what we in the Church of the Brethren could do that would be helpful to them.

The answer: have more conversations like the one we were having. Yes, all those conversations with Markus, Nate and Jenn, Filibus and Jinatu, Toma, Anthony, John, and others--our hearts will be forever bonded.

-- Roger and Mim Eberly recently returned from a visit to Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria.

Source: 2/25/2010 Newsline

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