By Suzanne Schaudel and Monroe Good
Jesus said, “With God all things are possible.” “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances!” Jesus said, “Surely I will be with you always.”
This update on the EYN Women’s Fellowship Choir and BEST tour has been prepared by the secretary and chair of the EYN Visit Planning Committee from Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren and Atlantic Northeast District. The EYN 2015 Fraternal Visit turned out to be a phenomenally successful “God event.” It strengthened the bond of Christian love and fellowship between EYN (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria) and the Church of the Brethren more than any other experience in recent years.
Two groups, one from EYN and one from the Church of the Brethren, sponsored and organized the visit. Te EYN BEST group, Brethren Evangelism Support Trust, a nonprofit group that supports EYN ministries, paid for all travel preparation costs and their own round-trip flights to the US. Lancaster Church of the Brethren appointed the 2015 EYN Visit Planning Committee. The committee is grateful for BEST and the Lancaster Church. We thank and praise God for their sponsorship.
Noteworthy facts about the EYN 2015 visit:
— 27 days in the US
— 5,500 miles traveled through 14 church districts
— 17 days touring with the choir presenting 1 to 3 appreciation concerts each day
— 27 EYN women sang in the choir
— 30-plus full or abbreviated concerts were given in 22 congregations, 6 retirement communities, 1 camp, and at Annual Conference
— 5 of the BEST visitors traveled to 2 districts to share the EYN story.
When the planning committee first started work, they planned for about 30 EYN brothers and sisters. Later we learned that more than 50 were able to get their visas to enter the US. At this point the committee knew that something big was about to happen. We felt God’s Spirit was at work directing the endeavor. The committee continued the work believing the words of Jesus, “With God all things are possible.”
The committee started the planning without a budget. As word spread about the visit, some funds gradually came in. Since the EYN group was so large, we estimated $65,000 would be needed to take care of the expenses. Knowing the Church of the Brethren, we believed funds would become available.
In addition to Monroe Good, who traveled on the bus with the Nigerian visitors, we called two former missionaries–Carol Waggy and Carol Mason–to serve as escorts. Their presence and compassionate leadership made the long bus tour such a success.
At every stop on the EYN choir tour, Church of the Brethren sisters and brothers were waiting to give a warm and heartfelt welcome, and to extend gracious hospitality. They provided meals and overnight accommodations, and also gave generously to cover the expenses of the tour.
Visits to the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and to Bethany Seminary in Richmond, Ind., and attending Annual Conference were high points for the EYN delegation. Most of them had never seen the General Offices or the seminary, and half had never attended Annual Conference.
The total expenses for the tour came to $65,306.22. The good news is that donations came to $87,512.78. The amount of $21,206.56 was given to the Nigeria Crisis Fund. Our committee rejoices and praises God for the generosity of the Church of the Brethren and its congregations.
We believe that this event was a high point for both EYN and the Church of the Brethren, and that it strengthened our relationships and understanding of each other. We believe the blessings of the 27 days of sharing and fellowship will challenge us to be more faithful followers of Jesus as we live and witness for Christ in our world.
The following was shared by one of the Nigerian leaders in the group:
“For one month, 60 people from different backgrounds, high and low, rich and poor, stayed together, dined together, praised together, worshiped together, and ate together, and there was no day of quarrel, dull or sad moments, no one fell sick. Rather it was sharing, jokes, and laughter. The Lord is faithful. He endows with spiritual and physical strength, for despite the crowded and rigorous schedule, the women were never weary or tired (Isaiah 40:31). Our Mighty Father is faithful and awesome.
“Everywhere the group went after performances there was mixed feelings of tears and joy. Tears because of the destruction meted by human to fellow human beings, the insurgency (Boko Haram) story in the northeast of Nigeria where the Church of the Brethren suffered colossal human and material losses, joy of being together and sharing in the love of Christ….
“We are also grateful to all Church of the Brethren churches that hosted us and the various families that opened the doors of their homes and showed us love, as we heard the women testify. God bless you.”
— Monroe Good served as chair of the EYN Visit Planning Committee and Suzanne Schaudel served as secretary to the committee.