EYN’s ‘New Light’ Interviews Mission Worker Carol Smith

Zakariya Musa, secretary of the “New Light” publication of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), provided the following interview with Church of the Brethren mission worker Carol Smith:

Brief us about yourself.

I came from a family with a long Church of the Brethren heritage. Not only my parents but also my grandparents and at least some of my great-grandparents belonged to the Church of the Brethren. When I was young, my father worked at a Church of the Brethren hospital in Puerto Rico. I grew up surrounded by Brethren Volunteer Service workers and learned that service was the best way to live. My academic areas of specialization include mathematics, computer science, and most recently, Montessori education.

Tell us about your missions in Nigeria.

I have taught mathematics at Waka Schools (1972-1976), Borno State College of Basic Studies (1976-1977), Ahmadu Bello University School of Basic Studies (1978-1982), and EYN Comprehensive Secondary School in Kwarhi (2011-2013). I’m hoping that EYN headquarters will approve a transfer so that when I return to Nigeria in the fall I will be able to teach a Montessori classroom at Brethren Schools in Abuja.

What encouraged you to come to Nigeria in such a time as this?

Having friends in Nigeria who I already know from when I was here 40 years ago has been powerful in bringing me back. It makes me want to encourage EYN and let people know that you are not forgotten. Having been here before makes me feel more qualified for working here than for working in other places where I have never been.

On your arrival in Nigeria, what were your impressions?

When I first looked out of the airplane window over Kano back in 1972, I felt like I was opening a story book about lands where I had never been, but had only seen pictures. When I arrived in 2011, I landed in Abuja, a city that did not even exist 40 years earlier, and I was surprised to see wealth that I had never before seen in Nigeria. Both there and in Kwarhi I found Nigerian people who were as friendly as always.

Photo by Carol Smith
A student learns using shape puzzles at the Comprehensive Secondary School in Nigeria. Carol Smith, who took this photo, has been a teacher and mission worker at the school connected with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

Can you give a brief account of successes and/or difficulties, if any, during your work in EYN?

I think that as advised by the acting director of Education in her report to the Majalisa (the church’s annual meeting), EYN needs to focus on quality before rushing into quantity. I think the EYN Comprehensive Secondary School needs to be more strict about who is admitted in order to improve the school both academically and with respect to discipline. I find it very difficult to teach students who do not have an adequate background to understand what they are supposed to be learning. Difficulties in understanding can also destroy the motivation of students to study hard and to behave well. I’m hoping that it will be easier to feel successful if and when I am allowed to teach at the preschool level where good foundations can be started.

What is your wish for Nigeria? 

Peace and unity and a common belief in God and in the goodness of God is much of my wish for Nigeria. I would like to see a nation where people cooperate together for the good of all. That is why I am so eager to work in a Montessori preschool. In a Montessori classroom, children learn to concentrate on their work and then they automatically and spontaneously and joyfully start behaving better and working harder and cooperating with each other.

What message would you like to add in general to the public?

Don’t give up. It is truly amazing what problems can be solved with simple persistence. I appreciated the EYN president’s reminder in his speech at Majalisa: Jesus taught us not to fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul (Matthew 10:28).

What is your view on the EYN-Church of the Brethren working relationship?

It is my personal opinion that the EYN-Church of the Brethren working relationship is excellent. EYN works hard to help me, a Church of the Brethren worker, to feel safe and to have the tools that I need to do my work and to live comfortably in Nigeria. The Church of the Brethren makes me available to EYN as well as providing workcampers and other workers like Roxane and Carl Hill. I have noticed that the Church of the Brethren is interested in EYN and EYN is interested in the Church of the Brethren. Persons in each group are interested in learning the history of the other group, of claiming our common heritage, and in attending each other’s Majalisa. Both groups pray for each other, and everyone is trying to do God’s will.