By Zakariya Musa
Joel S. Billi, president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) has embarked on a “Sympathy, Reconciliation, and Encouragement Tour” to 14 zones nationwide in Nigeria.
Speaking in Damaturu, the capital of Yobe State, Billi in company with his deputy Anthony A. Ndamsai, EYN general secretary Daniel Y. C. Mbaya, and the EYN spiritual adviser Samuel B. Shinggu, said EYN has suffered a blow from evil hands, “but I encourage you to stand firm.” The members who came from the remaining EYN local church councils (LCC) in Yobe gathered at LCC Damaturu, where the president addressed the members.
“Since God reconciled us unto himself, shall we continue in murmuring?” he said. “Our suffering is not anybody’s fault but the fulfilment of our loving God’s word, ‘You will be hated.’
“We at the leadership of the church will continue giving our support” he said.
Shinggu complimented the commitment of the leadership to the audience, who forfeited their Monday work schedules, saying, “We are here to justify our unity with you,” quoting Yochen Kirsch “Zumunci a kafa take,” meaning “fellowship is in the leg.”
Mbaya, who led the service, asked those present to extend the leadership’s concern and sympathy regarding those at various other congregations. Other local church councils were only represented by their pastors, because of their distance from Damaturu.
The DCC [district] chairman and pastor of LCC Damaturu, Noah Wasini, on behalf of the entire district and the pastors remaining in the zone thanked the leadership for coming. He called it a long awaited visit, since the insurgency occurred. Wasini gave a brief about the hardship they have experienced during the insurgency. Out of 6 LCCs, only 4 (Damaturu, Malari, Gashua, and Nguru) are alive. On restoring peace in the city, he said LCC Damaturu suffered the hosting of members who fled from Pompomari, Buni Yadi, Malari, and other places. He said the DCC is still scrambling to continue in service.
Members were given chance to talk to the leaders on issues they think the leadership could take note of. One of the members, Jasinda Chinada, said they are grateful to the new administration. He said no EYN top officials have visited the area since these occurrences. Another member, Safuwa Alkali from Malari Bypass, told the team, “You are here to wipe our tears.” One of them wanted the team to go round to the destroyed churches such as Pompomari and Malari, but this was not possible due to the fact that the team wanted to pay a courtesy call to the Yobe State Governor His Excellency Ibrahim Geidam, before proceeding to the second zone (Maiduguri) that same day.
The members complained that at Malari Bypass, where they have reopened [the church], only elderly people are contained in the 7 by 42 meter worship center leaving the young ones under a tree during Sunday worship. The member who spoke on behalf of Bypass also requested a waiver of the 25 percent contribution of the LCC to [the EYN denomination] in order to enable it to regain strength.
At Buni Yadi as well, according to Yohanna Elijah, they have started worshiping with 13 to 15 in attendance, in a church of about 400 worshipers before it was destroyed. They also requested a temporary tent of worship.
A key part of the occasion was an intercession of prayers ushered by four pastors, for thanksgiving, forgiveness of sin, and supplications for the country and its citizens.
The women’s fellowship, choir, youth band, men’s fellowship, gospel team, and Boy’s Brigade were there to welcome the EYN president and his entourage. Some of them were able to present a song or two. The Hausa hymn No. 100 was sung by the congregation. The song encourages depending on Jesus to have eternal life.
President Billi left Damaturu to go to Maiduguri, after failing to be accepted to see the state governor for prayers and words of advice.