By Carl and Roxane Hill
Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger traveled to Nigeria on May 3-11 to attend the Majalisa of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Noffsinger was billed as the guest speaker for EYN’s 68th annual meeting. Roxane and Carl Hill, co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response, accompanied the general secretary to Nigeria and were also given an opportunity to share before this large gathering.
In other news from Nigeria, yesterday a suicide bomber attacked the Garkida market as reported by “Sahara Reporters,” a website bringing reports from a Nigerian-African perspective. The bomb killed nine people. Garkida was the location of the Church of the Brethren Mission headquarters in Nigeria for several decades. The report said the bombing signals a renewal of violence by the Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram, at a time when Nigerian authorities are claiming victory in many parts of the northeast. See http://saharareporters.com/2015/05/19/suicide-bomb-kills-nine-renewed-fighting-against-boko-haram .
Noffsinger addresses Majalisa
During the gathering of almost 1,000 pastors and delegates Noffsinger addressed the Majalisa crowd twice. He encouraged members of the church in Nigeria by assuring them that they have not been forgotten by their sister church in America.
After one of his talks, Noffsinger held a feetwashing ceremony. This was a powerful display of servant leadership and humility. To make it even more meaningful, members of the audience were brought forward to receive the first washings. The six Americans present took part in this ceremony, and all were emotionally moved by being allowed to participate in this mutual display of love and service.
Noffsinger, who also attended last year’s Majalisa, noted the difference in the mood from one year to the next. “Last year the attendees had a sort of shocked expression on their faces. The proceedings were constantly being interrupted by announcements of tragedy–news of a pastor being killed or abducted or a village being overrun by the terrorist group, Boko Haram. There was no joy at last year’s Majalisa.
“This year the mood is completely different,” he commented. “There is true worship going on. People are lifting their voices to God. Laughter can be heard throughout the hall. Real fellowship is being experienced and there appears to be hope for the future, where last year there was only despair.”
Because so many of the churches of EYN have been damaged or destroyed, this year’s Majalisa conducted an ordination service for new pastors. The current ordained ministers, including EYN president Dr. Samuel Dali, gathered around the candidates, laying hands on them and commissioning them for the work ahead. All this is part of the EYN and Church of the Brethren plan to strengthen the church in Nigeria.
Americans help distribute relief goods
Besides attending the Majalisa, Noffsinger, the Hills, and two American Brethren volunteers who have been serving in Nigeria–Peggy Gish and Donna Parcell–helped with a food distribution under the direction of Dr. Rebecca Dali. Her nonprofit humanitarian organization CCEPI (Center for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives) is one of the organizations partially funded by Brethren funds raised in America. About 350 families were given relief supplies through this effort.
All the American volunteers for CCEPI worked a full day, but the satisfaction of being a helper outweighed any tiredness on their part. Said Noffsinger, speaking for all who were privileged to assist in this project, said, “I’m tired, but it’s a good tired. I wish we could do more.”
The Church of the Brethren general secretary did many other things while he was in Nigeria. Every day was filled with meetings and opportunities to meet new friends and rekindle older relationships.
Noffsinger’s nephew Jon Andrews also joined the trip to Nigeria, and had an opportunity to travel to Chibok with Rebecca Dali and staff from CCEPI. He is father of Preston Andrews, a boy who led an effort at his elementary school in Ohio to raise funds to aid the families of the schoolgirls abducted from Chibok. Andrews’ church community, which is not Brethren, helped raise money to support his trip to Nigeria, and the risky visit to Chibok where he was reported to be one of the first Americans to visit Chibok since the abductions. View a Nigeria television report on their visit to Chibok at https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B9nHTH_3NJjtSkNPUFprTHRWUVE/edit?usp=drive_web .
Remember Nigeria in prayer
The people of Nigeria are so hospitable and their warm reception of Noffsinger and his crew will not soon be forgotten. The church in Nigeria has repeatedly expressed appreciation and gratitude for the support of their church family in the United States. “Please convey to the American Brethren our profound thanks for their support and prayers,” said EYN president Samuel Dali.
Let us continue to pray for peace for these wonderful people.
— Carl and Roxane Hill are co-directors of the Church of the Brethren’s Nigeria Crisis Response, a cooperative effort with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Find out more at www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis .