‘Together for Nigeria’ Event in Michigan Raises Funds, Brings Attention to the Crisis

By Frances Townsend

photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
A cloth worn by the ZME women’s group of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria

In the fall last year, Tim Joseph conceived the idea of holding a big event at Onekama (Mich.) Church of the Brethren on Jan. 31 as a fundraiser for the Nigeria Crisis Fund. The struggle that the Nigerian Brethren are undergoing right now may be the biggest crisis the Church of the Brethren movement has ever suffered, particularly considering the sheer number of people involved, the number of churches destroyed, the number of deaths. Of course we should do all we can to send aid.

Several people formed a planning committee, including people from Onekama Church of the Brethren and Lakeview Church of the Brethren. We printed a poster that got about 1,200 views on Facebook. Posters also went up around the town and county. We sent copies of the poster and an explanatory letter to every Brethren person and church in Michigan we had addresses for, as well as local churches of various denominations. During the event, people from at least 10 churches in the Michigan District came.

Mark Ward put together a silent auction and people from as far away as the West Coast sent things to sell. We had to be selective because of space limitations. Lovely art works and other items were donated.

Esther Pierson and others worked on the food for a hearty soup supper. Lakeview Church of the Brethren brought desserts, and friends from outside the churches also brought some things.

Tim Joseph was busy lining up musicians for the prayer service held upstairs at 4 p.m., and for the informal concert after supper downstairs. The choir included people from Lakeview and from Manistee Choral Society, 25 singers plus Marlene Joseph leading and Carol Voigts on piano.

Tim Joseph also was interviewed by the newspaper with a front page article. Many people from the community who saw the article sent donations for the Nigeria Crisis Fund even though they were unable to attend. Donations are still being received weeks after the event.

The paper sent a reporter and so a second article after the event also was published. That will help people in our community remain alert to the need in Nigeria, not just for relief aid, but for prayer support as well.

To prepare the church visually, Susan Barnard brought fabrics she collected from Africa and those were hung in the sanctuary and basement. We projected a video during the prayer service, which explained the situation and how the crisis fund is helping. A slide show also was projected during the concert.

Around 140 to 150 people attended. The weather was good, so they were able to come from quite a distance.

Musicians included the expanded choir, Katy Joseph on piano; Tim and Byron Joseph, along with Jamey Barnard, Marlene Wood, and Trevor Hobbs; Arina Hiriwiriyakun on piano; Loren Deal with guitar. Downstairs after supper, Tim and Byron Joseph and friends sang, as did Tucker Laws and Clara Gallon, Ellie McPherson and Chloe Kimes. Carol Voigts led a sing-along story with audience participation, and Dave Gendler shared a poem.

Meanwhile, the silent auction was going on. Many people from within and outside the church donated. There was a large quilt from Oregon, smaller ones from Lake Ann United Methodist women and others, original art works including created by several different artists, and even a gift certificate for a mediation session, among several dozen other items. All of the auction items went for good sums and even then, people often paid over what they bid, all in the spirit of supporting the cause.

Everyone had a great evening. Many people were made much more aware of what is happening in Nigeria. Many prayers were lifted up. We as a community working, playing, and praying together raised over $10,000. Thanks be to God. May our brothers and sisters in Nigeria remain faithful and hopeful in this difficult time.

— Frances Townsend is pastor of Onekama (Mich.) Church of the Brethren.