Hearts for Nigeria: Roxane Hill concludes her position with Nigeria Crisis Response

Roxane Hill (at right) at a distribution of goats in Nigeria. Photo by Carl Hill

Roxane Hill is concluding her position as coordinator of the Nigeria Crisis Response, as of the end of this year. Her husband, Carl Hill, pastor of Potsdam (Ohio) Church of the Brethren, also previously worked with her on the response.

The Nigeria Crisis Response is not ending but programming is being reduced, although funding for 2020 continues at a high level with a budget of $220.000. Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries expect the response to continue for two more years, through 2021, and then expect to continue providing grants for specific work in Nigeria.

For more details about the Nigeria Crisis Response go to www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis .

A concluding report from Roxane and Carl Hill:

In November 2014, we sat around a table with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN) leadership in Jos, Nigeria. As we looked at these men and women, we saw faces filled with desperation looking at us for answers. Just a few short weeks before, they were sitting in their offices conducting affairs of the church at their headquarters in northeast Nigeria. Now, they had been displaced by the insurgent group known as Boko Haram and did not know where to turn.

In late October 2014, Boko Haram had swept through the northeast bringing destruction and chaos, forcing our Nigerian brothers and sisters to run for their lives. The majority of EYN leadership had come as far as Jos, a city in central Nigeria, to find a safe haven. It was at that meeting in Jos that EYN leaders adopted the idea of assisting their people through a newly created Disaster Ministry, to be headed by the EYN President and an appointed pastor, Yuguda Mdurvwa.

We recalled the day we were contacted by Stan Noffsinger, then general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, and Global Mission and Service executive director Jay Wittmeyer and associate executive Roy Winter, to be the new directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response. When they contacted us, we were touring the country as spokespeople for Global Mission and Service and had just completed a stint at EYN’s Kulp Bible College, and we were excited to share our experience with the church at large.

Roxane and Carl Hill (at center) with the Disaster Team of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN), and with EYN’s staff liaison Markus Gamache (at left).

The Nigeria Crisis Response has been carried out as a collaboration between EYN and the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries. EYN is a church established by Brethren missionaries almost 100 years ago, and for many decades has been independent from its “mother church” in the United States. During the heyday of Brethren missions, many from the US found their way to Nigeria and served there. Many conscientious objectors elected to serve in Nigeria as part of their obligation to this country–Nigeria was a place that qualified for “alternative service.”

Because of the large scale of the crisis, the Nigeria Crisis Response quickly became the largest single program of relief and aid in the Church of the Brethren’s 300-plus years. Because of the push from top leaders, a goal was set to raise $5 million. People across the denomination gladly gave of their resources because of the church’s familiarity with and love for Nigeria. Starting with seed money from the Emergency Disaster Fund, the church was soon on its way to raising the money needed to get the program off the ground.

Fast forward five years. We have just completed our last scheduled trip to Nigeria as representatives of the Church of the Brethren. This last visit was to observe and report on all that was done, how it has impacted the people most affected, and what challenges still remain for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

On our trip we met with EYN president Joel S. Billi, who recognized the Disaster Ministry as a valuable part of EYN and praised the staff for their tireless efforts in assisting those affected by the Boko Haram insurgency. We also met with EYN’s Disaster Team and spent time listening to their joys and concerns.

An IDP camp in Nigeria. Photo by Roxane and Carl Hill

A main focus of the trip was visiting camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs). We visited two camps around the area of Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja; a camp near the city of Yola; and three within the city of Maiduguri in the far northeast. The IDP camps near Abuja and Yola are surrounded by farmland and the displaced people are growing their own food. These camps amazed us with their progress and steps toward self-reliance. But in Maiduguri the camps are overcrowded, there is never enough food, and the living conditions are far below the quality of the other camps located in safer areas. Traveling safely to Maiduguri and assisting these camps remains a huge challenge for EYN and its Disaster Ministry.

While visiting the EYN Headquarters in Kwarhi we traveled to the town of Michika, where we observed the progress toward rebuilding one of EYN’s large churches. Global Mission and Service has given 40 grants of $5,000 each to EYN congregations to help them rebuild their church buildings following destruction by Boko Haram. We also were able to witness the blessing of two water sources provided by the Disaster Ministry. The bore holes are providing a consistent source of good water and help build unity among the recipients and their communities.

The need for alternative sources of income is very important for subsistence farming communities in northeast Nigeria. We visited a livelihood training center where widows and orphans are learning to be tailors. We observed a distribution of goats to some of the most vulnerable people, who included disabled and/or elderly people and a few of the orphans whose parents had been killed by Boko Haram. Each beneficiary was given a male and a female goat, and these animals will be a welcome source of livelihood and income for their future.

We left Nigeria and our many friends with mixed emotions. There was a sense of satisfaction that when our brothers and sisters in Nigeria were at their lowest point, the Church of the Brethren stepped in to provide what was most needed. However, we also left with sadness as we realized this was probably the end of our official role in Nigeria. We are just two of the many Brethren who went to Nigeria to help out during a time of crisis. As we boarded the plane to fly home, we knew we had left a piece of our heart in Nigeria.

Many challenges remain for EYN and the people of northeast Nigeria. More than 2 million people are still displaced, living in camps or host communities or in the neighboring country of Cameroon. Travel and communication are difficult, especially in areas still threatened by Boko Haram. There are still huge unmet needs, and they far outweigh the available resources.

Our plea is to hold up our brothers and sisters in prayer. The people of Nigeria have great faith, and their hope is in God.

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