By Carl and Roxane Hill
Nigeria Crisis Response co-directors Carl and Roxane Hill continue a series of articles introducing leaders of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). In today’s piece, the Hills interview EYN general secretary Rev. Jinatu Wamdeo, and his late brother Bulus Libra, a lay pastor and a leader in the Margi-speaking community:
“We are just trying to get things back to normal,” said EYN general secretary Jinatu Wamdeo. This is what Rev. Jinatu told us when we visited with him in March of this year. “To be honest,” he informed us, “we are still reeling from the impact of being displaced from our homes. We are trying to settle in and to carry on the work of the church.”
Rev. Jinatu, as the general secretary, is the administrator in charge of the various leaders of EYN. “I am responsible for the district secretaries, the pastors, and the evangelists (pastors who have not yet been ordained), and to see that they are doing the work assigned to them.”
All the church leaders report to the general secretary, who encourages them and directs them as needed. At this time, more than any time in the past, working with the DCC [district] secretaries is critical because so many of the districts have been destroyed by the violence inflicted by Boko Haram.
“Only 7 of the 50 districts have not been severely impacted,” he told us. The DCC secretaries are the ones who have taken on the job of seeing to it that the people of their districts are receiving necessary assistance. Much needed food and materials are being distributed through the coordinated efforts of the DCC secretaries.
“It has been very difficult to keep the church together during this crisis,” reported Rev. Jinatu, a graduate of Evangelical Seminary in Pennsylvania. “The DCC secretaries are the vital link that remains between the people and the new [EYN annex] headquarters,” which is now located in central Nigeria.
‘Death came swiftly and without warning’
By Rev. Jinatu Wamdeo, as told to Carl and Roxane Hill
“As we left to go to Yola for our Nigerian Executive Committee meeting, I stopped by my elder brother’s house to tell him of my plans. As always I took him tea-making supplies. That was the last time I saw my brother, Bulus Libra.
“Although three of my children have died, the death of my brother has hit me the hardest. You see my brother was 14 years older than I. When my father died, he put his own life on hold to care for me and my three younger siblings. He sacrificed to pay my school fees, sending me to the mission primary school and for further education at Waka Schools. I received an excellent education all thanks to my brother. He even paid the dowry for my wife.
“Bulus was a very special man. He had been chosen by the missionaries to be trained as a lay pastor. He never went for formal training but remained active in the church. Even up to his death he was in charge of the Margi service in Wamdeo and was its main preacher. Now those who don’t speak English and have minimal Hausa wonder, ‘Who will provide church for us now?’
“My brother was now 78 years old and our roles were reversed; I was the one taking care of him. If possible I would go to see him every few days and take him purified water along with tea, sugar, and milk. He had been told by the doctors not to drink well water anymore and I was the one who could provide clean water for him.
“While we were in Yola for the meeting, EYN Headquarters was attacked and overrun. I was not able to return to our home town. Sometimes I could call my brother but often communication was impossible. On the last day, I was able to talk to my younger brother who was out at the family farm. He was telling me that our town and our elder brother were fine. But just one hour later he called to say that the Boko Haram had invaded Wamdeo. He had no details and I waited anxiously for more news.
“I was unable to concentrate at work and headed to my temporary house in [central Nigeria]. Before I reached home, another friend called to give me the crushing news that the Boko Haram had come into my brother’s house and killed him. I nearly collapsed, my blood pressure skyrocketed. I was enveloped in grief and sadness. Making it worse, because of the Boko Haram, I could not even make it back to pay my respects and bury my brother.
“But God is a faithful God. Life does go on after loss and there is healing and sweet remembrance of a life well lived. We would all do well to follow the example of my elder brother and ‘live a life worthy of the calling you have received’ (Ephesians 4:1).”
— Carl and Roxane Hill are co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response, a cooperative effort of the Church of the Brethren with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). For more about the Nigeria Crisis Response go to www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis .