|Roxane and Carl Hill, in a photo from Zakariya Musa of the “Sabon Haske” publication of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).|
By Zakariya Musa of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)
Brief us about yourselves and your mission in Nigeria.
We started our missionary experience in late December of 2012. Roxane’s parents and grandparents had both been missionaries in Nigeria (Ralph and Flossie Royer, Red and Gladys Royer). Ralph had often said that we would be a good fit to teach at Kulp Bible College, but we always found reasons not to go. When the last of our children moved out of the house we decided to pursue the opportunity. Sight unseen, we boarded a plane and came to Nigeria.
Tell us what encouraged you to come to work especially in the northern states of Nigeria?
Both of us have always had a passion for teachings God’s word. To be honest we were not fully aware of the potential dangers that exist in northeast Nigeria. We never considered any other position in Nigeria, and have had peace about living in an area of conflict. We are careful, but not afraid. Many thanks to the leaders of EYN for their advice on travel and the provision of wonderful, capable drivers.
Was there anything that surprised you on your arrival?
Roxane grew up in Nigeria and had some idea of what conditions might be like. She was amazed at the number of people in the cities and by how little life has changed in the rural areas since she was here last. Carl, on the other hand, was just willing to give it a try. Carl’s biggest adjustment was in eating the food. You would not consider him a picky eater in the US. However, he was not ready for what he found in trying to live on African food. This is one of the surprises Carl has to share with anyone wanting to go on a foreign mission: be ready to either bring your own food with you or learn to live on what is there. After our summer break in the US, we brought numerous American staples with us so Carl has been much happier.
Can you give brief successes or difficulties you have encountered in your work in Nigeria?
We have enjoyed living among the staff and students on the Kulp Bible College campus. Our success can be summed up very easily. We have found the Nigerian people warm, friendly, and accepting of us. Getting along so well with everyone has been our biggest joy. This experience has allowed us to really live out our ministry verse, 1 Thessalonians 2:8, “To share not only the gospel but our lives as well.” We also had the opportunity and privilege to present a practical program on individual spiritual growth to the entire body of district secretaries (executives of EYN).The overall goal being that the secretaries would take the materials back to the local churches under their care. The participants received us well and the communication gaps were few. Speaking of communications, this has been one of the biggest challenges we have faced, not only the language but also some of the customs and unspoken protocol which is to be expected when doing foreign missions.
What would you advise Nigerian Brethren regarding ongoing persecution in some northern states?
Well, we can’t advise them on this matter. As American Christians we simply cannot relate to such danger associated with our faith. We can learn from their courage and unswerving faith, and look at them with admiration. Like the first Christians in Acts 4:29, we pray for boldness as we continue to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I know you have experienced problems in communication, limited traveling, weather, the state of emergency in northeastern Nigeria. Would you like to share your experiences with the entire Brethren?
There have been challenges and limitations during our stay, but when we look back they seem minor. The 105-degree temperatures between mid-February and mid-May were extremely difficult without air-conditioning. Our travel was somewhat limited but we were able to preach 15 times at 10 different churches. The leaders at EYN Headquarters took responsibility for our safety and we yielded to their recommendation for any travel. The state of emergency has made travel slower due to the additional military check points. Telephone and Internet services were suspended several times. Our family in America was concerned the first time, but they are aware of the situation and everyone in Nigeria has had to be flexible.
What would you like to do after your mission in Africa?
We are convinced that this intercultural experience, where we have been immersed in God’s word and learning to live simple lives, will lead us to planting a church for the Brethren in America. There are many urban areas that need the freshness and enthusiastic approach that God has been instilling in us, both for His people and His glory. We are reading everything we can get, and beginning to write up a proposal for church planting. We are trusting in God to lead us to the next opportunity.
What is your view on the partnership between EYN and the Church of the Brethren?
The relationship has changed over time from a father-child interaction to one of equal partnership. It would be great to see more interaction between the two organizations. We pray the partnership will continue to grow over time with Americans coming to Nigeria and Nigerians helping in America.
What is your view on having international workcamps in EYN with Church of the Brethren and Mission 21 participants?
It is still a great idea. The experience of participating in a work camp is priceless. A person’s eyes are really opened when you work together with others in another country. We hope that the workcamps could go both directions, with Nigerians working in America or Switzerland as well. Wouldn’t an exchange of summer service workers among all the organizations be great?
EYN is pushing to promote its hospitals. Would you recommend a medical personnel volunteer from any of the EYN partners?
Yes, we would love to see some medical volunteers come here. New facilities have been built but they are not being utilized. The EYN area is in great need of trained medical personnel–doctors, physician assistants, and midwives all could be utilized, even if only for two-to-four months at a time.
What would you like to add in general perspective?
We would highly recommend a short- or long-term assignment to those God is calling. The Church of the Brethren in America has a special place in its heart for Nigeria. The Nigerian people will inspire your faith and the slower pace will allow you more time to spend on your personal walk with God.
— Zakariya Musa is secretary of “Sabon Haske,” a publication of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).