By Roxane Hill and Roy Winter
On Dec. 8, the annual Tripartite Meeting between the Church of the Brethren, Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), and Mission 21 (a German and Swiss mission organization) was held via Zoom. EYN staff participated from the Technology Center in Jos, Nigeria, that was constructed with support from Bethany Theological Seminary.
Attending the meeting from EYN were the President, General Secretary, Director of Finance, and four members of the EYN Disaster Ministry. Mission 21 was represented by its Country Coordinator, Program Officer, and Head of International Relations. Church of the Brethren representatives included the Executive Director of Service Ministries, Interim Directors of Global Mission, and Interim Office Manager for Global Mission.
EYN general secretary Daniel Mbaya began the meeting with a devotion on the topic “Strengthening Partnership in the Face of Hardship.” He stressed the importance of working together in these difficult times by putting relationship over resources, upholding equality over superiority, reciprocity over control, learning over teaching, and cultivating healthy dependency.
EYN president Joel Billi gave a brief overview of the escalating insecurity in northeast Nigeria and throughout the country. He shared deep concerns about increasing numbers of kidnappings, abductions, killing of civilians, Boko Haram attacks, and destruction of churches and property, which shows a growing lawlessness in Nigeria. Amazingly, even in this violent environment, EYN continues to grow and plant new churches. Despite all government universities being closed, EYN’s Kulp Theological Seminary continues to meet and is winding up its semester.
Billi encouraged the continuation of EYN’s Disaster Relief Ministry but stated that as yet EYN has no blueprint for how to sustain the ministry with crisis funds from the US and Mission 21 continuing to decline.
EYN director of Disaster Relief Ministry Yuguda Mdurvwa presented a PowerPoint overview of the work completed in 2020. The report showed quality programing with good accountability, as the ministry focuses shrinking resources toward those with the greatest needs, and areas with new attacks. The report also covered the COVID-19 response focused on emergency food rations and sanitation, made possible through grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund.
The Nigeria Crisis Response 2021 plan budget (by the Disaster Relief Ministry accountant) was presented and discussed. Food insecurity continues to be a main focus for 2021, with agriculture, medical care, and education also highlighted. The budget reflects the decrease in funding provided by the Church of the Brethren and Mission-21 and plans for EYN to raise an additional $137,660.
Roy Winter, executive director of Service Ministries for the Church of the Brethren, gave a brief overview of the impact of COVID-19 on the Church of the Brethren in the United States and related support programs that have been developed. The report mentioned reduced giving to the Nigeria Crisis Response and Emergency Disaster Fund, continued support of agricultural projects through the Global Food Initiative, and the splintering of a portion of the denomination. Interim directors of Global Mission for the Church of the Brethren, Norm and Carol Spicher Waggy, pointed out the challenges and opportunities of the Global Church of the Brethren Communion and mentioned the upcoming Zoom meeting of that group on Dec. 15.
Jeannie Krucker, Mission 21 country program officer, gave a presentation that included the impact COVID-19 was having on fundraising and the Mission 21 programs along with Mission 21’s new Strategies for Humanitarian Action.
Yakubu Joseph, Mission 21 country coordinator, shared about the ongoing violence and insecurity in Nigeria and the everyday risk for citizens. He stated that the Nigerian government has been unable or unwilling to address the insecurity. A driving force causing the insecurity are the large and growing numbers of unemployed youth, without much hope of finding jobs, who are demanding change. Making matters more difficult, the media has been compromised or suppressed, especially in northeast Nigeria, while criminal activity is on the increase. He gave praise to EYN for continuing to preach the gospel of peace.
Two key recommendations were given for the way forward. One was for other countries to provide international pressure on the Nigerian government for reform and to stop the problems in northeast Nigeria. The second was for the tripartite partners to improve communication between themselves and for good transparency about all of their work.
— Roxane Hill is interim office manager for the Global Mission Office of the Church of the Brethren. Roy Winter is executive director of Service Ministries for the Church of the Brethren.
Find more Church of the Brethren news: