By Jay Wittmeyer
With blue and yellow t-shirts marking the occasion, a group of Brethren from the United States joined Nigerian counterparts in a workcamp with the motto, “Come Let Us Rebuild.” The workcamp was sponsored by the Brethren Evangelical Support Trust (BEST) and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Nine American Brethren led by Global Mission and Service executive director Jay Wittmeyer traveled to Nigeria for a two-week church construction project from Nov. 7-18.
The Nehemiah Project, EYN’s new emphasis on rebuilding its devastated infrastructure, seeks to recover from years of attacks on its community and the destruction of churches and church properties, estimated at 1,600 worship centers. The project is seeking to initiate a spirit of volunteerism and support from local churches to assist in the construction of churches in communities affected by violence. EYN as a church community has never had the practice of operating workcamps and is hoping, with the push from the US Brethren, that a workcamp program will get started at this time.
The first workcamp began the construction of a large church in the village of Pegi, located on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital city Abuja and serving families displaced from the district of Chibok. Along with the American Brethren, members of BEST, and EYN leaders including the president Joel Billi, busloads of volunteers came from local churches in the Abuja district to work on the project, as did the district secretary of Abuja. The pastor of Pegi and local church members participated daily in the camp.
BEST member Abbas Ali, the architect of the building and leader of the project, laid the foundation of the church and built toilets so that the site would be ready for workcampers to raise walls and pour lintels. After the two weeks of effort, the workcamp closed with worship and singing, celebrating completion of the walls in preparation for the roofing of the new church.
A young boy of eight, Henry, who came daily after school to join in the project asked if people would come to burn this church one day.
The Church of the Brethren is partnering in at least three Nigeria workcamps. A second workcamp is scheduled in January to complete the Pegi building, and a third is scheduled in February.
The denomination also is raising funds for church reconstruction to assist Nigerian congregations to rebuilt their structures in secure areas. The Nigeria Crisis Fund continues to be the main focus of the Church of the Brethren, as a fund to meet the humanitarian needs in Nigeria. For more information go to www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis .
— Jay Wittmeyer is executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren.