Elisha Shavah attended National Youth Conference in Fort Collins, Colo., as an international guest and an observer from Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Back home he is an accountant by profession at a private company specializing in irrigation and hydropower. He also is national chairman of Kungiyan Bishara EYN, which translates to the “Gospel Team” of the church in Nigeria, part of the work of EYN’s national youth ministry.
Shavah has been involved in youth work since 1986. It’s a labor of love for him.
(In related news, find a blogpost about the visit of EYN’s disaster ministries director, Yuguda Mdurvwa, to observe and participate at project sites of Brethren Disaster Ministries in the United States, at http://blog.brethren.org .)
Shavah's work with the Gospel Team is only one part of the EYN Youth Fellowship. In addition to the national level, EYN has youth activities at each level of the denomination including Local Church Councils (congregations), Local Branches, and District Church Councils. “Every youth is attending one program,” he said.
Nigerian Brethren face the challenge of having many different cultures, ethnicities, and languages in the denomination. “In EYN we have different ethnicities and different cultures in the church,” Shavah said. “Even in my local government, we have more than 27 dialects.” The common languages are English and Hausa, which are used when EYN meets together.
When asked what he had learned from observing our National Youth Conference, he said, “I am really impressed by the way you have been engaging the youth in church activities, especially what is happening in the conference. Everyone has been involved. One thing that is more important to me is the church is really serious.”
On the flip side, Shavah felt the American church could learn a few things from the Nigerian Brethren. “What the American church will learn from us is our passion, especially youth who are living in a difficult environment where things are not comfortable for them,” he said. “The church of the US will learn from youth in Nigeria patience, and endurance.”
That patience and endurance is necessary for a church that continues to experience persecution and hardship. To a certain extent, Shavah said, “persecution is part and parcel for us. For us it is normal.”
He and his family have experienced this on a personal level. He has not been able to go to his home town of Gwoza since 2011, and his family has been scattered. Gwoza has been a kind of headquarters for the Boko Haram insurgency and continues to be “occupied” by Boko Haram. Shavah shared that people from his family have lived in refugee camps across the border in Cameroon. “Some of them are living in Cameroon. My parents have moved to the regional capital. We have other family members living in other places in Nigeria,” he said.
“When you look at Matthew 24 [an apocalyptic passage warning of persecution] it says, ‘All this will happen,’” Shavah declared. “Some will die for the sake of Christ. Like the [American Brethren] missionaries, some went to Garkida, some got sick and died, their wives and children.
“It’s a sacrifice. You have to sacrifice for others to survive.”
-- Frank Ramirez was a volunteer writer on the press team for National Youth Conference 2018.
The NYC 2018 Press Team includes Laura Brown, Allie Dulabaum, Mary Dulabaum, Nevin Dulabaum, Eddie Edmonds, Russ Otto, Frank Ramirez, Alane Riegel, Glenn Riegel, and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.