Just by our being there: Reflections on a workcamp in Nigeria

Church of the Brethren Newsline
February 8, 2018

Presentation of a ceremonial quiver to the American workcampers. Photo by Wanda Joseph.

by Wanda Joseph

Wanda Joseph was one of the Church of the Brethren members from the United States who participated in a recent workcamp in Nigeria, where the group joined with members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) to begin rebuilding EYN’s LCC No. 1 Michika church. Here are a few of her reflections on the experience:

One of the older Nigerian workcampers came up to me in our second week in Michika and said, “You are an inspiration. If you can leave your comfortable lives to come here and work with us, then I too can come out of my home to work on my church.”

Another worker told me that because we were willing to take the risk to come to Michika, perhaps he could let go of the fear he carried with him, just living there.

Bassa, a hard working older man and a “regular” who joined the workcamp every day, told me near the end of our time there, “Before the workcamp, I am sick and only stay in my house, day after day. When I heard about the workcamp, I decided to come and see. I found out I can work. After days of working with you, my sickness just washed away. I pray my health will continue after the workcamp closes.” He was a wonderful spot of cheer in our day, a striking looking man with a shock of white hair and white beard who always wore a white caftan. You could see him out on the construction site, swinging a pick ax–what they call a digger–even when the rest of us were taking lunch or a break.

At the end of our time at Michika, at our closing worship service, Albert, a spokesperson for the church fundraising and the building development committees, presented us with a gift from the local Kamwe tradition–a quiver, regally decorated. Albert asked that it be delivered to the Church of the Brethren headquarters as a symbol of the people of Michika’s deep appreciation for our presence, our encouragement, and inspiration.

He echoed what many many people told us, that just by our being there, we showed them that the Church of the Brethren supports them and walks with them in their joy and in their struggles. They asked that we convey their gratitude to our brothers and sisters in the church back at home.

— Wanda Joseph and her husband, Tim Joseph, of Onekama (Mich.) Church of the Brethren, were two of the six American Brethren who participated in the workcamp to rebuild the EYN church at Michika, Nigeria.

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