By Carl Hill
With an eye on helping young people and promoting peace, a mobile library has been sent to northeast Nigeria by Rockford (Ill.) Community Church of the Brethren, with help from many other donors.
The library is a bus stocked with books that have been collected by the church and donated by many people, congregations, and districts, with the aim of reaching Nigerian young people who have been without formal schooling over the past couple of years.
The mobile library is part of a team effort of pastor Samuel Sarpiya and John Pofi, a Nigerian government official. Sarpiya, who is originally from Jos, Nigeria, and also previously lived and worked in South Africa, has been a friend and associate with Pofi for a long time. The mobile library is their joint project designed to make an impact in Nigeria in the face of insurgent violence.
“With the vision God has given me centering on evangelism and peacemaking I was looking for a way to protect the children of Nigeria from Boko Haram,” said Sarpiya. “The way God showed me is through education. Since Boko Haram is so anti-education, it makes sense to encourage education as the means to counteract the lure of Boko Haram.
“As I did some research I found that there were only 50 libraries in Nigeria,” Sarpiya continued. “So as a church we started to collect books.”
The church has received donations of books from across the denomination, he reported, from Pennsylvania to Seattle, Wash. Even the public school library in Rockford donated books. Bethany Seminary, the Church of the Brethren school of theology, and George Fox Evangelical Seminary, a Quaker-related seminary in Portland, Ore., donated theological books so that colleges and seminaries in Nigeria could benefit from the mobile library.
Other people stepped up to contribute the money needed to ship the bus and the books to Nigeria. The project shipped two 20-foot containers filled with a refurbished bus and books and clothing. The shipment went by sea to the port city of Lagos, Nigeria. From there the containers were taken by rail to the central Nigerian city of Jos.
The mobile library has now become a reality in northeast Nigeria, where it is beginning to reach out to children and students with the written word. We caught up with the mobile library at the Gurku interfaith camp for displaced people, and at a school in Jos. We saw children and adults enjoying the experience of reading in the bus.
Will this be enough to discourage young Nigerians from joining extremist groups like Boko Haram? Only time will tell, but it is a start.
To donate books or gently used clothing to the project contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
— Carl and Roxane Hill are co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response, a joint effort of the Church of the Bethren and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Find out more at www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis .