By Dale Ziegler
Dale Ziegler was one of the “Take 10/Tell 10" group from Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren who made a trip to Nigeria in January, accompanied by Nigeria Crisis Response co-directors Carl and Roxane Hill. Here he tells the story of the “Lamps for Nigeria” project:
Our group was told that we would encounter times when it would be appropriate to have a gift to share with our Nigerian hosts. After much thought it occurred to me that I had been given some wood that came from Nigeria. It seemed logical to use this wood to make gifts.
J. Henry Long was a member of Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren and for about 18 years, during the 1950s and 1960s, he was associate executive director and then executive director of the Foreign Mission Commission of the Church of the Brethren. During that time he made two trips to Nigeria, and while there spent time learning to improve his wood-turning skills on the lathe. He was tutored by Clarence Heckman. Sometime about 1965, after returning to the United States, Henry received a shipment of wood from Nigeria, sent to him by Clarence. It was Nigerian rosewood, also called bubinga.
As a woodworker, I have been inspired by Henry and have learned many tips about turning. After Henry died in October 2013, his wife, Millie, asked me and two other woodworkers to help clean out his stock. I received some of the Nigerian rosewood.
Another woodworker, Russell Eisenbise, also a member of the Elizabethtown Church and an Elizabethtown College professor, died last year. I was asked to help clean out his shop. There I found the glass lamps.
It seemed fitting to combine these two items and create oil lamps to share with our Nigerian hosts. Along with a lamp, each also received a doily made by Karen Hodges and a star made by Julie Heisey. I thought that it might be important and appreciated to write a short article for them, telling how the wood had come to the United States, and now is being returned to Nigeria in a new form.
‘You are the light of the world’
As I was making the lamps, I kept thinking about Matthew 5:14 where Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” So, I started the article with Matthew 5:14-16. I had heard that even after being displaced by the Boko Haram, the Brethren in Nigeria expressed forgiveness, not retaliation.
At the time I didn’t know how fitting those verses would be. We spent the first several days in and around Abuja visiting camps where internally displaced persons (IDPs) were living. The most amazing recurring theme that we saw and heard is that individuals and groups are finding ways to improve their situation. They are not waiting for the government or someone else to step in and save them. They truly are the light of the world.
We traveled to Jos, where the annex headquarters for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) is located. I was surprised to see the motto for EYN written on the sign, Matthew 5:14. To me this was more than coincidence. I can’t say that I really have felt like I’ve been spoken to by God before, but maybe I wasn’t listening closely.
The lamps were well received and the recipients were intrigued to hear the story of the wood. Inscribed on the bottom of each lamp are the words “One Body In Christ”--a heartfelt indication of our common faith. I made 10 lamps to take along, one for each of our group members to present. There were many worthy people and organizations, making it extremely difficult to decide who to share lamps with. We could have easily given 20 of them.
Lamp sales raise funds for Nigeria crisis
Now, I will be making 20 numbered lamps to be sold. Each will be designed and inscribed on the bottom just like the ones we took to Nigeria. Since I have used up the wood from Henry Long, I will be using bubinga, which is native to Nigeria, but purchased in the United States. I am donating all the materials, so that all money received from sales will go directly to the Nigeria Crisis Fund. The price will be $500 per lamp.
To purchase a lamp, make checks payable to Church of the Brethren, note “Nigeria Crisis-Lamp” in the memo line, and mail to: Church of the Brethren, Attn: Roxane Hill, 1451 Dundee Ave, Elgin, IL 60120. For more information contact Carl and Roxane Hill at CRHill@brethren.org .