‘We Can Recreate a New and Better Tomorrow’: An Address by the EYN President

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Dali
Ambassador David N. Saperstein (third from left), the US Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom, has been visiting Nigeria in recent days. He is shown here with a group that includes leaders of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria): Markus Gamache, EYN staff liaison (second from left); Samuel Dante Dali, EYN president (third from right); and Rebecca Dali, wife of the EYN president and head of the nonprofit humanitarian organization CCEPPI (right). Ambassador Saperstein also visited the Gurku camp where Nigerians displaced by Boko Haram violence, from both Christian and Muslim faiths, are intentionally creating an interfaith community. Gamache, of Jauro Interfaith Shades Foundation Gurku, has been a key leader in the effort to build the Gurku community–which also has received funding through the Church of the Brethren’s Nigeria Crisis Response.

The following is the text of an address by Samuel Dante Dali, president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), to the EYN Ministers’ Council. The council met at the EYN Headquarters in Kwarhi on Feb. 17-20. Newsline was sent this address by the EYN communications staff, in order to share it with the wider Church of the Brethren:

My dear brothers and colleagues in the service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you are all welcome to this year’s annual conference. As usual, we must begin by thanking God for His generous grace which has been sustaining us throughout the year to this period. We must thank our mission partners, other Christian organizations, and civil societies whom God has been using as instruments to bless us.

I do not need to repeat the sad experiences we have been going through but, in view of the grumblings and parochial views of some individuals, it is imperative that I remind you of the fatal injury inflected by the [Boko Haram] insurgents on the physical, spiritual, and moral life of EYN. Although many of you have practically experienced the impact of this injury, yet there are some who seems to behave as if nothing has happened to EYN. Also, there are some who seem to have forgotten the history of sources of economic power of EYN. Perhaps the trauma we have suffered is still lingering in our minds.

In view of the horrible experiences we have gone through, you will all agree with me that it is only by the grace of God that EYN as a denomination is still surviving and miraculously progressing. If we can reflect back on our economic history and the sources of our income for running the church programs, you will discover that EYN [denominational program] has been totally depending on 25 percent from the goodwill offerings from members, which often do not come in as expected. Now that 70 percent of this source of income has been destroyed and displaced, no one will ever believe that EYN in this darkest period of her history can do anything significant in terms of sustaining her operations and still make meaningful development or progress.

Yet, God so loved EYN that He has been so gracious to send some of his children from other countries to be with us and to help us move beyond our problems and traditional boundaries to a better future. As a result of God’s grace, EYN through the period of the insurgency has significantly done a lot beyond expectation. For instance, we have bought several pieces of land worth N51, 309,000 [Nigerian Naira]. Also, we have spent N93,202,456.69 on constructing new buildings, we have bought a wire house worth N30,000,000, and N101,338,075 has been spent on food distribution, making a total of N270,849,531.69 as the money spent by the disaster ministry during this period of the crisis.

EYN today has the following as her new assets:

— Wire house with seven bedroom flats in Jos
— Twelve bedroom stair house for staff quarters in Jos
— Four bedroom Unity house for the use of our mission partners

We also have the following plots of land that are yet to be developed:

— 4 plots of land within TEKAN Land near Abuja
— 10 plots of land donated by the Ogumbiyi family
— 13 hectares of land in Jalingo under construction for a care center
— 7 hectares of land in Jimeta where we are building a retreat center
— 72 2-bedroom flats constructed at Masaka, where some of our displaced members are living today
— 13 hectares of land in Jos for future development.
— 6 staff houses and student quarters constructed at Chinka for the use of our model secondary school
— A well fashioned Annex office in Jos

In addition:

— A microfinance banking operation will soon start in Jemita
— A Brethren University Committee and investments have been inaugurated, the start of work to find ways that we can establish our Brethren University
— A Women Ministry impressive plan for establishment of a school and Skill Acquisition Center for widows and orphans

The EYN headquarters has deposited, N23 million as part of her share in the Microfinance Banking. This brings to a total of N660, 720,069.72 as money spent by EYN throughout the period of the insurgency.

You also need to know that since the insurgents’ attack, we never stopped producing our diary and devotional materials, which are important for spiritual growth of our members. Our major conferences have been held freely without the normal registration fees. You can also remember that the office of the Ministers’ Council has been assisting the displaced pastors no matter how insignificant it appears to some of you. The pastoral officer has provided free resource materials to you and has assisted some of you during times of sickness, which was never a practice of the EYN headquarters.

Since the insurgency, the office of the Ministers’ Council has spent a total N21,611,000 on matters related to the insurgency that affected the pastoral ministry. You also need to know that none of our normal services has been halted because, wherever we are, we have been operating.

Now we are in the process of rebuilding and recovering some of our damaged assets as planned. As you can see, we have started working on the administrative block and repair on the old offices [in Kwarhi] and staff houses are in progress.

In view of all this, I can safely ask, what else do we need from God that He has not done for us during this period of crisis? Yes, we have not forgotten the fact that we have lost some of our friends, parents, husbands, wives, children, uncles, relatives, and countless properties. We have acknowledged these as part of our fatal injuries and we cannot recover any of them. They have gone forever and we cannot reverse the history but, we can recreate a new and better tomorrow.

We cannot afford to continue spending so much time and energy on being frustrated, grumbling and abusing, or blaming one another for what has happened. Instead, those of us who are still alive must make use of the time and the opportunity which God has graciously given to us. We need to recognize the grace of God and thank Him for taking us so far. The Lord is about to do something new in EYN and he has started. Hence, let us look forward to the new thing that the Lord is doing in EYN.

My dear brethren, remember that whatever position we hold, and wherever we work, we are all temporary workers. We are who we are today because of the grace of God and it may be you tomorrow. Understand that we are all instruments in the hands of God, which He can use at anytime, anywhere, and whenever He wishes. Since we have all experienced the grace of God, His loving care, we should have confidence in Him leading us to a better future. What God requires of us is trust and obedience, and not sentimental grumbling.

Thus, as leaders of the church at various level of the denomination, I would like to advise those who are interested in the progress of EYN to watch for the following tasks and challenges ahead and face them confidently and boldly without tribal sentiment and parochial worldview:

1. Do not condemn a crocodile until you cross the river.
2. Do not spend time and effort thinking about the past glory.
3. Do not join the bandwagon without thinking about the implications. Know that we will all come to give account to God on how we used the opportunity He has given to each one of us.
4. Support whatever it takes to ensure the establishment and maintenance of our Microfinance Banking as it will relieve EYN from dependency.
5. Support the Brethren University and Investment Committee to enable them to achieve the purpose for which they have been formed, so that EYN can realize her dream of owning a university.
6. Support and appreciate the office of the Ministers’ Council as it tries to develop the pastoral ministry to function better.
7. Support and ensure that our Care Centers under construction are completed.
8. Ensure that our dream to construct a retreat center in Jemita is realized.
9. Support the dream of the Women’s Ministry to establish a School and Skill Acquisition Center for our widows and orphans.
10. Do not stand as a road block to the work of God and cause others to sin.

Above all, love one another and work together in unity as co-workers in the vineyards of our Father, the head of the church. Thank you for listening and may God guides our steps as we move into a better future. Amen.

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