International perspectives – Nigeria: A very trying moment for the church of God

A handwashing station in Nigeria

“Thank you very much for your love and concerns about EYN,” wrote Joel Stephen Billi, president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). “Thank you for your prayers for us. We also pray for you always.

“Our Churches in Lagos and Abuja have been totally shut down. Members are encouraged to pray at home with their family members. Few churches are listening to their pastor’s sermon online…not all members are educated and have access to the Internet. In the northeast, life is still like normal. Some people don’t even believe that COVID-19 is real. But we are restraining people from handshaking. Weddings and funerals are still on going in the north. We are witnessing lots of death recently but not of coronavirus. Our weather is so harsh now.

“I have asked all pastors who are not yet in total shutdown zones to observe holy communion on Maundy Thursday without feetwashing, to avoid body contact.”

From Zakariya Musa, EYN communications staff:

“In Nigeria, the federal government has asked people, especially in the most hit states, to stay at home to reduce the spread of the infection. On April 5, the sample I gathered indicated that many places could not conduct church services, while those in rural areas with a far distance from major cities held their normal Sunday worship, while some gathered for brief worship services.

“The situation of total lockdown across Nigeria varies from one state to another based on their exposure or vulnerability to the infection. Some states are under total lockdown since two weeks ago, like Lagos. In the urban areas, the shutdown is stricter than in the rural areas. Staying at home also brings another hardship on masses, especially those who cannot afford two square meals a day even in normal times.

“Some churches are going online, however we cannot imagine that in many of our congregations in rural areas and up in the mountains. Even few in the urban areas have less access to online worship.

“Rev. Adamu Bello, who is the District Church Secretary (DCC) in Lagos, said, ‘No Sunday service,’ and they are staying indoors. In Jos, the capital of Plateau State, according to the pastor of EYN LCC Jos, they had about 10 to 20 who attended church service as movement is restricted. Some churches were able to conduct church services in some parts of Adamawa State with more emphasis on social distancing and handwashing and sanitizing. We had a church service at EYN LCC Mararaba which started at 7 a.m. and had a wedding solemnized all within two hours. Some activities were cut down and there was not as much singing as usual, with about six groups presenting songs during the worship service. In Kaduna, in north central Nigeria, they have remained indoors for about two weeks but were allowed for hours to come out to buy some food items, not going to church.

“As we continue praying for God’s intervention, the leadership of EYN is following some degree of measures to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic by calling on pastors and leaders to encourage members to practice simple hygiene. President Billi has also ordered some of Headquarters staff to stay at home while a few come for some time. The EYN Headquarters was able to share a few hand sanitizers across departments, close communities, and security personnel.

“During the week, the EYN officials were able to officiate the burial service of the former EYN Board of Trustees chairman, the late Rev. Usman Lima, at Garkida, and a onetime chairman of the RCC Michika, Rev. Yohanna Tizhe, at Watu in Michika, both in Adamawa State.

“Another concern in Nigeria is the condition of the hospitals. Many communities, especially in northeast Nigeria, are either at recovery stage or in refugee camps because of Boko Haram activities. May God help us.”

A COVID-19 poster in Nigeria features EYN staff liaison Markus Gamache

From Markus Gamache, staff liaison for EYN:

“We as a Church of God continue to pray for one body all over the world and follow the rules put in place by the government. City church churches like Abuja are having online service every Sunday, water, and soap for handwashing all over EYN. Most churches are working with health professionals within each congregation and also working with the government to follow due process of shutdown time.

“The EYN headquarters are running skeletal services, the EYN president and a few key officers come within the working hours and check before going home. Working online from home is not yet well incorporated into our system.

“We did not receive any news of a case of an EYN member being infected or a death from coronavirus, as of today. This does not mean that we are not concerned about the people, both Muslims and Christians.

“Yes, it is indeed a very trying moment for the church of God. For EYN it is the most devastating situation. We are yet to recover from Boko Haram. If we are talking of time for prayers, this is the time that we need Jesus’ presence most to lift this pain, pandemic, terrorism, injustice, corruption, and much more.

“I would like to thank the leadership of the Church of the Brethren and all the brothers and sisters across the world for being in the gap always.”

Prayer requests from Nigeria:

Let’s continue praying for our good God to intervene in this trying moment, and pray for ourselves to act in God’s way for us to receive from his mercy.

For President Billi and his team and all EYN members who need help, wisdom, encouragement, and healing.

Various churches across EYN are doing their best to create awareness in their communities, both rural and urban. We need education and proper awareness at this time.

EYN is facing more and more of a financial crisis.

The most important prayer is for the faithful to hold to their faith and believe to the end. The devil is working strongly to create confusion in the church of God by taking advantage of the fast-changing world.

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