Last “piece” of Nigeria!

January 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

The past 12 months of our lives have been rich, full of transition and loaded with new experiences.  Change is something some of us embrace while the rest of us go along for the ride!

In January of 2015 we began our last six months with MCC in Nigeria.  We were feeling overwhelmed by the incredible trauma that thousands of displaced people running from the Boko Haram rebels with the clothes on their backs and carrying stories that twist minds and spirits into torment and destruction.  Together with our MCC team, we put together a one-year trauma project designed to build up a team of skilled trauma facilitators who would go out and walk with people as they put their lives back together.  This good work is ongoing today.

Leaving our Nigerian friends and colleagues was full of its own pain for all of us who engaged in saying goodbye.  Many words and gifts were exchanged symbolizing the richness of relationship that we were privileged to be a part of during our 2 ½ years in this life-filled country.  We have been delighted to keep up with many of these friends through social media, bridging the distance in ways we had not anticipated.

We took a circuitous route back to Canada, stopping in Burkina Faso for a few days to lend a hand and listening ear to the new MCC Reps;

dropping in on Turkey to feast our senses on this beautiful country rich in history and diversity;

reconnecting with my brother and his wife for a week in Portugal where we saw some of the sights but also focused on reconnecting and telling our stories without interruption.

We arrived in Canada by mid-July but didn’t actually walk into our house for two more weeks.  We had a wonderful 10 days in Alberta reconnecting with dear friends we made during our first MCC term in Nigeria while witnessing the wedding of one of the “MCC kids”.  

Before finally arriving in Kitchener we made a quick trip to MCC headquarters to “handover” to the interim MCC Reps for a day.  We were delighted to finally be embraced by our three daughters and their partners on the 27th of July.

Kara and Aleda had managed our triplex during the years we were gone with Kara living in our unit, so she moved out in time so that we could move right back in relatively painlessly since most of the household items were in place. We have amazing children who had everything ready for us to “move in” a gesture of support that we do not take for granted.

Mary Lou had reconnected to colleagues at Grebel and walked into two part-time contracts: 1) co-teaching a peace studies course; and 2) helping coordinate the Global Mennonite Peacebuilding Conference and Festival slated to take place in June 2016.  

Within a few weeks of arriving in Canada, Dave was offered work in the solar photovoltaic field.  By the end of November, he had serviced over 200 solar trackers across Ontario.  This was a short term contract which may be offered again next year.  Dave took this time in farmer’s fields hanging out with farm animals as a “sabbatical”, giving time for reflection and transition from the intense time in Nigeria.

It is good to be back in Canada where systems work and life is more predictable and secure.  It is good to be with our family and to reconnect with friends and our church community.  And it is good to be a part of a country at a time of transition into hope where our leaders are international in their orientation and actually care about injustice issues with a desire to revive Canada’s reputation in the world as a peacemaking nation!  We are embracing this change and happy to actively engage the ride!!

Mary’s Magnificat figured prominently in our worship at our church this Advent/Christmas season. It was particularly moving to sing a version of it on Christmas Eve reminding us that the coming of Jesus whom we as his followers call Christ was not just for our personal benefit but proclaimed a new world order where the proud are humbled and the hungry filled. It is not a comfortable song, but one we were called to sing anyway.  

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.

Let the fires of justice burn.

Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,

and the world is about to turn.

Peace, …Dave & Mary Lou

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A Cathedral of Tears

Musa Ishaku Indawa

Musa Ishaku Indawa grew up in a close knit family that did not change even as they became adults.  The siblings looked out for each other and their parents.  When Boko Haram insurgent activity increased in 2014, the family became concerned for the welfare of their parents and tried to get them to move to a safer place.  The parents refused, saying that at their age, they had no interest in running away from home.

During the latter half of 2014, the Boko Haram successfully took over more and more territory in northeast Nigeria, carrying out their destructive activities as they went.  Often they would arrive in a community suddenly and people would run for their lives.  Musa’s community suffered one of those attacks where people scattered into the countryside, only to regroup some time later to assess who were living, who were dead and what had been stolen or destroyed.  People came to John and told him that they had seen his father’s lifeless body.  As hard as it was for John to accept this news, it was even harder for him to tell his mother.

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Musa shared this story with a group of 20 other members of his community — men and women, Christian and Muslim — at an MCC supported trauma resiliency and awareness workshop being run by the EYN (Church of the Brethren) Church.  Mugu Bakka Zako, MCC Peace Coordinator, shared with the group on their second day that it is very important to tell their stories to each other.  He said that the road to healing your trauma starts with telling your story to others who care.  Tears are part of the healing.

Boko Haram Insurgency

Boko Haram is Hausa for the idea that western education is sinful or forbidden. They believe in the supremacy of their understanding of Islamic culture and civilisation.  The Boko Haram became a force in 2002 under the leadership of a popular leader, Muhammad Yusuf.  When Yusuf was killed in 2009, Abubakar Shekau took power and the group’s violence escalated.

By April 14, 2014, the Chibok girls were abducted.  By September, large parts of territory in central Borno were in Boko Haram hands, which meant that Christians fled in all directions, leaving behind burned churches, destroyed homes and many dead or kidnapped. Attacks continued to early February, 2015 with the Boko Haram claiming territory the size of Belgium along with much destruction of lives and property at its height.

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Abga Chirma lost two of his daughters during the Chibok girl’s abduction

People fled in stages.  Many thought they would be safe in neighboring villages but when these were attacked, they were forced to flee again.  Some squatted with friends or relatives; others lived in primary schools.  Some take up shelter in abandoned houses or sheds. Most have lost their homes, their food stocks (which they had planned to feed their families until harvest at the end of November), and other bare personal possessions.

At the beginning of December, 2014, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) estimated that there were 1.5 million people displaced and another approximately 150,000 who had taken refuge in Niger, Cameroun, and Chad.

EYN

EYN is the largest Church in the areas affected by the activities of the Boko Haram. At the end of November, the EYN church headquarters near Mubi town in southern Borno was attacked causing the church leadership, faculty, staff, and students of Kulp Bible College to flee.  The EYN leadership estimate that at the height of the displacement, 70% of their estimated 1 million members and adherents were not in their home communities.  178 out of the total 276 Chibok school girls kidnapped are children of EYN members.  The numbers of people displaced is dynamic.  Some people move to other parts of the country where they see opportunity or have relatives or support structures.  Approximately one hundred thousand have found refuge in one of the many displaced camps that have been set up.  As the security situation changes, some are now returning home.  Others simply move in with different people so that they may or may not be counted.

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Rev Toma Ragniya, Peace Coordinator for the EYN Church shares with trauma victims

Trauma

The impact of violence, displacement and loss on mental health is great. People are traumatized to varying degrees. MCC Nigeria carried out a relief distribution to 500 displaced individuals related to EYN communities in north-east Nigeria, in Oct 2014.  Surveys were carried out with 20% of the recipients which involved listening to stories, many of which were recorded.  100% of those individuals had experienced a level of trauma, often very severe, illustrating the urgent and necessary need for trauma consciousness and resilience.

Rifkatu John is one of those who ran for her life when the Boko Haram suddenly attacked her community.  She held her month`s old child as she told her story.  She was almost 9 months pregnant with her 10th child working on her farm with two of her children when they heard gun shots.  Within minutes they saw people running from the violence escalating behind them.  She wanted to return to town to find the rest of her family, but her children begged her to run rather than become a liability.  Thankfully, her family soon came, running with the rest of the community.  Together they hiked up into the surrounding hills where they hid for a number of days before moving on towards the safety of Cameroon.

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After two more days Rifkatu could run no further.  Her body was wracked with fatigue so she entered the home of a local resident and begged them for shelter and rest.  The woman of the house gave Rifkatu a room and there she gave birth to a baby boy, Ladi, meaning Sunday, the day he was born.

Dislocation and trauma have been experienced across the north-east of Nigeria – by both Christians and Muslims. As there has been some recent success by the Nigerian military in pushing back the Boko Haram occupation, people are slowly and carefully returning to their communities. However, when particularly Christians return home, they meet an uncertain welcome. In some cases, neighbours who are Muslims betrayed the Christians to the Boko Haram.  Nevertheless, it is also known that many Muslims also suffered.  Trust that may have been fragile is now broken. Traumatized people returning home face not only destroyed properties and lost loved ones, but uncertainty in relationships with their Muslim neighbours.

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Mugu Zaka Bakko, Peace Coordinator for MCC, is passionate about making a difference in the lives of those who are traumatized, giving them hope to move on with their lives.

As this trauma project was being developed, President Dali of EYN commented that, “reconciliation is not a choice but a necessity. The primary goal is to see that the present society is healed; the process that brings about the healing is reconciliation.  Inasmuch as reconciliation is very painful in this context, it is a necessity because that is the only process that will bring about healing.”

MCC has responded to EYN’s call to address the trauma that their people have and continue to live through by putting together a one-year project that is developing a trauma resiliency model contextualized for the Nigeria situation.  Seven individuals from MCC, TEKAN Peace and EYN have been trained as trauma facilitators at a HROC (Healing and Reconciling our Communities) training in Kigali, Rwanda.  They in turn are training more facilitators who are facilitating groups of people to come to terms with their trauma while working towards reconciliation and possible forgiveness to stem the tide of violence.  The project is designed around a sustainable model, training “listening companions“ with limited resources.

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Trauma Project facilitator team: Mugu, Asabe, Dlama, Susan, Kadala (coordinator), Monika, Kitshwe

Ibrahim Tumba

Ibrahim Tumba was one of those chosen to participate in the third trauma resiliency workshop meeting under a “cathedral” of mango trees, taking place in the community of Gurku, Nasarawa State.  Ibrahim shared his own story of trauma escaping from the clutches of the Boko Haram.

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“Cathedral” of tears

Ibrahim described how he was sitting in the front seat of their stolen vehicle between the driver and a fighter carrying a gun.  Five other people were captured along with Ibrahim.  All were being taken to the headquarters of the Boko Haram in the Sambisa Forest.

His captors asked him if he was a Christian.  Ibrahim had no problem attesting to his faith in Jesus Christ despite knowing that his chances of survival would be much higher if he told them that he prayed to Allah five times a day.  His fellow captives were not convinced by this bold strategy, but when Ibrahim grabbed the gun from the fighter on his right and leaped out the car door, they did not hesitate but ran after him into the bush.

The startled Boko Haram fighters immediately took off running after Ibrahim.  Slowly they were gaining on him so he discarded the gun and kept fleeing.  His pursuers picked up their gun and stopped running.  When asked if he had thought of turning the gun against the Boko Haram, Ibrahim said, “I wanted to save my life.  We are not taught to kill.  I didn`t even think about shooting them.”

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As Ibrahim shared his story to the group, he came to the part of forgiveness.  He told the group that he was not ready to forgive the Boko Haram for the way they had destroyed his life and the lives of his community.  He felt that justice should be done before forgiveness could be considered.

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Asabe, one of the facilitators, responded to Ibrahim by sharing her own story of forgiveness and how it had been such an important part of her journey towards healing.  She shared how her sister, a Muslim woman, had been the one to challenge her by asking, “are Christians not the ones who preached forgiveness?”

By the end of the three-day workshop, Ibrahim knew that he had discovered something he had never understood properly before, despite a lifetime of active involvement as a member of the EYN Church.  As he shared what he had learned with other members of his community, they complained that it was unfair that he had been chosen for the workshop and they had been left out of this learning and healing experience that had been so meaningful to Ibrahim.  Several hours of sharing later, these friends expressed their gratefulness to Ibrahim for having passed on what he had learned particularly around the gift of forgiveness.

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As each day of the trauma workshop passed and Rifkatu returned to sleep with her family, they started to notice a change.  “I’m happy now.  I have been healed from the trauma I have gone through.  My conviction now is to pass this healing experience on to the many others from my community who have also experienced the horrors that create trauma.”

— Dave Klassen, April 2015

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“Ma”

For the last two years, my students at the two seminaries where I taught addressed me as “Ma.” For a while, I thought the term was short for “Ma’am,” since male teachers were often addressed as “Sir,” or “Prof.”  As time passed, however, I realized it was a more personal, endearing, but complicated short form for, “Mother.”

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Mothers in Nigeria are almost universally highly regarded, respected, and revered. Once a woman has given birth to children, raised them, and has a few (or many!) gray hairs, she has earned respect and even a right to be listened to – even outside of the family context where she traditionally reigns. Being addressed as “Ma,” in this sense, is an honour and a natural extension of what the students saw as my role – as an older person and as a mother. Perhaps the subject matter I taught also encouraged this sort of connection. Mothers, after all, are considered the key trainers of children, inculcating the moral and ethical values of the society in their offspring. Peace studies focuses on how relationships work and its foundational value is that peace and non-violence are social goods.

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In contrast, women in Nigeria have a deeply paradoxical experience. On the one hand, several have achieved political acclaim. The Finance Minister in the last federal government was a woman. There are many women who are professors, principals, doctors, teachers, lawyers…though there are few female leaders in religious institutions. On the other hand, women are also marginalized. While almost 70% of men in Nigeria can read and write, just under half of the women can – representing a 20% gap in literacy rates.[1] 70% of those living below the poverty line in Nigeria are women.[2] “Nigeria has one of the highest maternal mortality rates [in the world]…. [E]very 10 minutes, a woman dies from pregnancy related complications.”[3] Though difficult to document, a 2008 study suggests that 28% of Nigerian women have experienced physical violence.[4] There are estimates that 12,000 women have been raped by Boko Haram.[5]

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Grappling with what I perceive as contradictory experiences of mothers vs. women in Nigeria is a knot I cannot untie. My Nigerian female friends value their role as mothers and home makers and use their age as an advantage that forms a platform from which they advocate for the political and social change they require, even if they are also professional women.

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Meanwhile, I contemplate returning to doing some university teaching in Canada. What has given me authority and esteem here – motherhood and age – I expect will mean little there. Perhaps these aspects of my identity may even be considered a detriment. Feminism in the west has made it more possible for women to garner respect based on their knowledge, skills, and experience and we are, at least officially, evaluated on the same grid as men. I wouldn’t want it any other way either and will continue to struggle with others against the “white, male, heterosexual” power norms.

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Still, as traditional as it may sound, I expect to feel a level of sadness that two important aspects of Who I Am may mean little, or be considered secondary qualities. While a term like “motherhood” is being redefined and its use is not always politically correct, I believe there is much that I have to offer from my experience as a parent and mentor.  As an older woman with almost white hair, I know that 50+ years of life and work in four countries and two continents has formed in me some “old-fashioned wisdom”. While knowledge and information are valuable, they are incomplete if not integrated with insight, judgement, and foresight borne of experience.

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So when I enter the classroom next September, I don’t want Canadian students to call me “Ma” – not at all.  But I do hope I earn their respect – not just for the rigor of the presented subject matter, but also for wisdom and guidance.

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[1] “Nigeria,” CIA The World Fact Book, (18 May, 2015), https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/geos/ni.html, accessed 7 June, 2015.

[2] Agabus Pwanagba, “70% of Nigerian women are living below poverty line – Minister,” Daily Post (13 July, 2013), http://dailypost.ng/2013/07/13/70-of-nigerian-women-are-living-below-poverty-line-minister/, accessed 7 June, 2015.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Research and Statistics,” Domestic Violence and Abuse Resource Centre, Centre for Health Ethics Law and Development, CHELD, http://domesticviolence.com.ng/research-statistics/, accessed 7 June, 2015/

[5] Ludovica Iaccino, “Nigeria: Boko Haram has raped 12,000 women,” International Business Times (4 June, 2015), http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/boko-haram-12000-nigerian-women-care-after-being-raped-by-terrorists-1504485, accessed 7 June, 2015.

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thank God for life…after life as a sex worker

I was privileged to spend 90 minutes with a group of sex workers in Jos the other day.  Their stories were sobering and enlightening.  — Dave

Though Zulei Isa is a retired sex worker, she continues to lead a group of 14 other women, both Muslim and Christian, who make their living as prostitutes.  She advises them on how to protect themselves from STDs and AIDS and counsels them as they deal with the challenges of their trade.

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Over the more than twenty years that Zulei plied her trade, she only really understood just before her retirement, the dangers of unprotected sex that can lead to life threatening ailments.  Now she counsels others.

Amina Ahmed is the Executive Director of WISCOD (Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Development) who works with many of the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS in Jos, Nigeria.  She and her colleagues teach their predominantly Muslim community about HIV/AIDS and encourage testing and safe living.  They work with traditional birth attendants, teaching them skills that protect both mother and child.  And because of a project they embarked on a year ago, Peer Education Plus, they began working with a group of people they had never engaged before — sex workers.

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Amina shares that working with these women has been an education.  She did not know that there were a significant number of women living in the city who made their living at night.  Some, she discovered were girls as young as 13.  She learned that some 16-year old girls were the primary income earners for their families through the sale of their bodies.  Often pregnancies resulted so children were another reality that these women had to care for.

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None of the women Amina spoke with grew up imagining a career as a prostitute.  Many felt like they had no choice.  They found that they needed to survive and other traditional systems of support – parents, husbands, community – had failed them.  In their desperation, they learned from peers that their bodies were in demand.

Over the last 15 years insecurity has increased in Jos and so has the increase of security personnel – police and military – who are often placed away from their families.  As is the case in other parts of the world, the demand for the services of sex workers accompanies violence and war.

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Rahma AbdulRahman was married at the age of 17 to a young man that she “loved so much”.  Three years later a misunderstanding developed which led to divorce.  Her parents, she says, were involved in trying to encourage them to work out their differences but in the end the marriage failed.  Her next marriage was one of violence so she turned to her friends for support and they introduced her to the opportunity that she could sell her body in order to generate income.  Amina AbdulRahman is the last of her five children.

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Hawa Musa was forced into marriage with an older man at the age of 15. She still remembers this experience of 21 years ago as painful and without hope.  When she left the man, her family rejected her and actually called the police to force her back to her “husband”.  This was not the future she imagined for herself so she joined a friend who was already engaged in the world’s oldest profession as a way to survive.  At this writing Hawa is pregnant with her 13th child, seven of whom have lived.

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At the age of 17 Magajiya Lalwali was an active hard-drug user along with her boyfriend and other friends.  In order to pay for their habit, the boyfriend encouraged Magajiya to sell her body.  That was the beginning of a life she has been a part of for more than twenty years.  She laughs off the question of children because of her many miscarriages.

Hawa and Magajiya rent a house together that has become a haven for many of the sex workers in the area.  The rent is paid for by “the men” and everyone contributes food.  There is a certain level of order and there is a community of support.

When Zulei Isa started to understand the dangers she had exposed her body to through the teaching of WISCOD staff, her fear that she might be HIV+ grew.  Despite the encouragement they gave her to get tested, it took her some time to work up the courage to do so.  When her results came back negative, she was thrilled.  When her live-in boyfriend refused to get tested, she abandoned him and is now supporting herself as a small marketer in the community.

Zulei continues to counsel other young women who are considering selling their bodies, of the risks involved.  If this is what they feel they must do, she gives them advice on safe sex.  “The condom,” says Zulei, “is our ID Card. If a man refuses to use this protective device, we refuse to service him.”

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Despite having been forced into an unsuccessful marriage at the age of 13, Zulei is not bitter.  “I thank God for life; and I want to make life better for others because of my experience.”

— Dave Klassen, May 2015

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Holy Ground – Church and Smoke

Before the weekend I sent Margaret a message that I wanted to go to the Jungle on Sunday morning.  Her response was that it would be better to go in the afternoon. I said that I wanted to go to church in the Jungle, so the morning might be better.  She was thrilled at this on-going redefinition of church that I’ve been pushing.

When we arrived at the top of the ridge overlooking the Jungle we were pleased to meet a number of the youth who had been called to carry down lunch.  Margaret complained some, but with the help of one or two youth, she managed to get down to valley were a number of youth were waiting, locally rolled cigarettes hanging from their lips.20150322-{youth}-8 20150322-{youth}-6 20150322-{youth}-11

The Jungle is a small space in this valley where a few mango trees grow and the youth have claimed a sanctuary where they can smoke to their hearts content.  They say nobody bothers them here because nobody comes.20150322-{youth}-134 20150322-{youth}-88 20150322-{youth}-214 20150322-{youth}-217

20150322-{youth}-200A big mango tree provides shade over their parlor and a small tin shack a space for their “office”, or a shelter when it rains.20150322-{youth}-115

Because it was Sunday, the topic of discussion Margaret choose was “church” – what is church and why do we go?  Interestingly, as much as the experience of these youth with the church has not been positive, they were not yet cynical and were trying to make sense of their understanding:

  • “You go to church because of unity not for God. When you come out it is to serve God.”
  • “Most people respect you if you dress well in church.”
  • “There are two laws: the law of God and the law of the church.”20150322-{youth}-142 20150322-{youth}-148 20150322-{youth}-151 20150322-{youth}-56 20150322-{youth}-32 20150322-{youth}-22

20150322-{youth}-62In a previous blog post we talked about condemnation and how many of these youth have and continue to experience rejection at the hands of the church.20150322-{youth}-94

20150322-{youth}-9520150322-{youth}-12420150322-{youth}-126Then Margaret asked the question whether the Jungle was church.   Within a few minutes four of the youth huddled together and put together a Jesus rap:  “Jesus on my Mind”, which they proceeded to perform.  It was a powerful Gospel message brought into the reality of these youth who have felt rejection by family and society, but still claim Jesus welcome for their lives.  We went on to talk about relationship, about trust, a peaceful and natural environment….all of which they enjoy in the Jungle.20150322-{youth}-2920150322-{youth}-72

Kingsley gave the most potent message I’ve heard for some time.  His theme: what have we done for Nigeria?  “Mommy”, he said, “you have brought us many skills, you’ve brought us food and you’ve showed us a different way, the way of love and acceptance.  We are grateful and can never thank you enough.  But we have to go on from here.  Shouldn’t we ask, instead of what is the government done for us, what can we do for Nigeria?”20150322-{youth}-160

20150322-{youth}-13820150322-{youth}-135 Ever the mother, Margaret’s love for these youth was clear when she spent the morning cooking rice.  The youth, observing the cooler and knowing what was inside, finally suggested that the theological discussion should end so that physical needs could be met.20150322-{youth}-176

If the state of Margaret’s spirit could have given her wings, she would have flown up the pathway, but instead the youth gave her their hands.20150322-{youth}-237 20150322-{youth}-238 20150322-{youth}-248 20150322-{youth}-253

As we drove away I reflected to Margaret, “you really love these youth!?”20150322-{youth}-223

Her response, “my brother knows me well!”

 

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Healing the Wounds

Faith Alive began as the vision of one man, Dr Chris Isichei, to follow his calling of service to humanity through healing in 1996. 20150123-{Obla}-105

He began by renting a 4-bedroom apartment where he gave free medical treatment and counseling services.  Today they operate out of a world class 3-storey hospital complex with over 100 staff providing free medical services to thousands every year._W4A4156

MCC Nigeria’s relationship with Faith Alive began with a six-month service assignment by MCCers Drs. Nathan and Rochele Beachy in 2003.  Since that beginning MCC has continued to support Faith Alive with financial grants and service workers who assist in the vision of healing holistically meeting the needs of the many hopeless who walk through their doors.  The giving and receiving is mutual at many levels._W4A0321

The stories of profound impact on the lives of people through the services of committed Faith Alive staff would fill volumes if they were written down.  Immaculate is a young woman who came with her mother to Jos, escaping the Boko Haram instigated violence in Yobe State.20150123-{Obla}-15  Her mother was dying from HIV/AIDs so they eventually found their way to Faith Alive.  Unfortunately her mother could not be saved but Faith Alive embraced Immaculate and enrolled her in MCC supported sewing classes so she could learn a trade to support herself.20150123-{Obla}-197 20150123-{Obla}-193

Rotimi Johnson has been “brought up” in Faith Alive providing leadership and skills to the hospital laboratory.  He is the one giving vision for the creation of a “for profit” world class lab that Faith Alive is building in order to address the need for sustainability in a world of declining funding.20150123-{Obla}-153

There is no doubt to anyone walking through the doors of Faith Alive that at their core is a faith in Jesus Christ as the master healer and giver of hope.20150123-{Obla}-101

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— Dave Klassen, January 2015

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From the Jungle to Doughnuts

When I try to enter a church on a Sunday, people move away from me because they can smell that I’ve been smoking.  I feel condemned by my family and by the church.  In the Jungle, nobody will reject you.  When I quit smoking, I asked the pastor three times whether I could be part of the church; three times he said he would consult with the elders: “we need to observe you for some time before we can accept you as part of the church community.”  I am still waiting…

These were some of the many comments these young men – Margaret calls them “youth” – gave in response to Margaret’s question, “have you ever felt condemned?”

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Margaret began working with drug-addicted youth on Christmas Day 2011 after being inspired and convicted at an MCC sponsored 3-week peace training in Ghana.  She was aware of more than 100 youth who met regularly in an abandoned warehouse close to where she lived to smoke weed and anything else they could smoke to get high.

On that Christmas Day she walked into the rank warehouse, stepping over feces and stoned young men, carrying a Christmas feast for these 50 rejected souls.  Three years later and the warehouse is again abandoned; the youth have gone back to school, started businesses or taken on jobs.  Margaret loved them back to life after meeting with them weekly for three years.Drugs to Hope Through Love

Margaret says, “When I see these youth, I see that they have something in them that they need to share.  When I go near them, they want to talk to me.  They want to share what is inside them.  They are not afraid and they are not ashamed.  They cannot share what they have with their parents because of culture.  Because of drugs they don’t trust people and people don’t trust them.”

Towards the end of 2014, Margaret started to think that she had to find more youth to love so she sent her assistant, Dola, into the community to find another set of drug-addicted youth.  A week later Dola returned and announced that he had found a secluded sanctuary in the heart of Jos where up to 70 youth hang out to “drug” (do drugs).  He had met these young men and told them that Margaret was coming to their “Jungle” to bring them dinner on Christmas Day.

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Margaret prepared chicken, potatoes, yams, gravy, cake and drink for 70.  She invited 4 of her Warehouse youth to join her and together with Dola they climbed down into the Jungle on paths that frequently brought Margaret (50) to her knees.

Sunday, one of the Jungle youth leaders commented, “We didn’t know you would come.  Even though Dola said you would come, we did not expect it.”

Margaret’s message to the assembled youth sitting under a large tree which they called their “parlor” was simple:  “I know you have Mommies, but I want to be another Mommy to you.  I want to share your feelings of condemnation and understand your hurts.  You are being condemned by the church, your families, and communities because you do drugs, but drugs make no difference to me.”Drugs to Hope Through Love

Margaret went on to invite them to her favorite time of the week at Home Makers – Youth Day which takes place every Wednesday.  She told them that if they didn’t come, she would be coming back to meet them in their parlor!

Sunday spoke for the group when he said, “Thank you for coming to meet us in our place.  If you invite us now, we will come.  If you had invited us before you visited us we would not have come.”  Other church groups will invite the youth to singing events or to share relief items as part of their “ministry”, but Margaret comes with a difference.

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When asked why she, a widow of one year, would leave her two teen-aged daughters and spend a good part of Christmas Day with these youth, Margaret does not hesitate in her response:  “We are together at home all the time.  I need more of these youth because there are a lot of condemned youth out there.  I was inspired to go into the Jungle because of the changed lives I saw in the youth from the Warehouse after working with them for three years.”

On the first Home Makers Youth Day after Christmas, 19 youth from the Jungle showed up, wearing the best clothes they had, not knowing what to expect.  Sitting under a tree in a circle Margaret led them in a discussion around condemnation.  All of these young men had experienced rejection so sharing from their personal experience was not difficult.  20150107-{HomeMakers}-15After an hour of sharing, they took a break to prepare dough for making doughnuts then came back to continue the discussion while waiting for the dough to rise.  Just before they started to roll out the dough, shape it and fry it into doughnuts, they were served a hearty meal of yam stew.

After demonstrating how each part of the doughnut making was done, the youth were eager to try their hands at rolling, cutting and frying the dough with a final taste test at the end.

Margaret says that she wants to build their capacity; to give them skills so that they can have an income.  They need the capacity to help themselves.  “Did you see how happy they were making the doughnuts?  They felt really good about themselves!”

“These doughnuts,” Margaret says, “will match and surpass any doughnuts in the market.  They are easy to make, have a good shelf life, so are an easy way to start a business and make an income.  Next Wednesday I’ll teach them business skills!”20150107-{HomeMakers}-40

Margaret reflects on the two messages she received from the boys on their first Home Makers weekly Youth Day:  1) the government should engage us and give us jobs; if we have jobs, then we will be tired and won’t go to the Jungle again; and 2) to our parents, when they see us smoking they should tolerate and not discard us; they should try to know us.20150107-{HomeMakers}-50

As their first Youth Day ended, Margaret reminded them to come back next Wednesday and to “bring a friend….or two!”

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Dave Klassen, January 2015

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