By Karen Hodges
Karen Hodges 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 is her reflection after participating in a food distribution:
Our Take 10/Tell 10 group had the privilege of helping Rebecca Dali and CCEPI (Center for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives) at a food and supplies distribution in Jos on Jan. 5. The previous Sunday, several local churches handed out 500 tickets to IDPs (internally displaced persons) needing supplies. On the day of the distribution, many more than 500 IDPs came, but only those with a ticket could partake in the limited amount of supplies provided by the Church of the Brethren, and some by the Nigerian government.
As women and children gathered and waited patiently in long lines for their names to be called and for the distribution to begin, each of us was assigned a place in the distribution line to hand out items such as buckets, Vaseline, soap, mats, blankets, children’s clothing, formula for infants, plastic plates and cups, and corn. Dr. Dali asked me to take photographs, which I gladly did.
I took photos of a group of women sitting on a nearby rock. One told me they did not have tickets and did not expect to receive anything, but they still came, just in case. Instead of smiles, that photograph shows women with tired, red eyes who, like the other women, left their homes due to attacks by the Boko Haram. Perhaps their homes and churches were burned, or perhaps they witnessed the murder of loved ones. Whatever their story, it was clear that they were being forced to take responsibility for their families.
I took photos of members of our group looking into the eyes of the Nigerian women, lovingly handing them supplies, and saying “God bless you.” In turn, our Nigerian sisters curtsied and said, “Thank you, God bless you.”
I took photos of women standing in the long line, and was especially impressed by their calm patience (something we seldom see in the US), and also at their appearance. Most were clothed in bright and beautiful dresses with matching head scarves.
I took a picture of a beautiful little girl who clung to the woman she was with, seemingly afraid to let go.
I took pictures of women carrying all of the supplies they received, including the bag of corn on their head, and often a child on their back. Their physical strength impressed me so much that at the end of the distribution, I gathered all of the supplies that one woman received, just to see how heavy it was. Carrying all that weight, I could barely walk two steps.
I took many photos of Dr. Dali, whom I learned to greatly admire. I was impressed and moved by her confidence, compassion, and love.
During the distribution, a TV crew from “Nigerian Television Authority News” showed up to record a short story. The reporter said: “Humanity can survive only when we show love one to another. The unity, peace, and progress of this great country can be achieved when Nigerians see each other as brothers and sisters, irrespective of religious, ethnic, regional, or even cultural divides. Breaking these divides, the CCEPI together with their partners in the United States (Take 10/Tell 10), come together today to help reduce the plight of these 500 widows and orphans.”