June 9 was the date the Iowa team of 15 persons were to embark on the annual trip to Nigeria. But Nigeria had been in the press with stories of bombings, kidnapping of 250+ girls, burning churches and causing turmoil in villages located in northern Nigeria. Nigeria is the size of North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa with a majority of Muslims living in the northern states which border Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Mali. It is in this area that the militant group known as Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is a sin,” is trying to impose their Sharia law. The Boko Haram targets Christians with hundreds being killed in the last several years.
The Nigerian Government has not addressed this terrorist problem thus allowing attacks to continue in northeast Nigeria. With the recent kidnapping the school girls taking exams in Chibok, a world wide protest has occurred with the cry being “bring back our girls.” The school girls kidnapping – which the group has taken responsibility for – is just the latest attack in a brutal campaign of violence it has been waging for years against what it sees as the corrupt, Westernized and oil-obsessed government in the majority Christian south.
Nigeria officials have invited assistance from world powers as the U.S., United Kingdom, and China to help find the girls and train security and military forces.
The United Methodist Church of Nigeria is located in north central Nigeria, south of the states being affected by the Boko Haram. In Jalingo, the capital of Taraba State and headquarters of the UMCN, there is a ban on the use of motorcycles in the city. In Adamawa and Borno States cell phones and the internet had been banned.
We had recruited a group of 9 members, 5 of whom were health care professions. Grandview UMC in Dubuque had a team of 6 persons ready to cement their partnership with Damka, a rural, remote village in the middle of nowhere. But we reconsidered our plans and in light of the violence in Nigeria and some unrest in one conference of the UMC, we have canceled our trip until later this year. Bishop Trimble and Thomas Kemper, General Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, were consulted and their advice confirmed our decision to not travel at this time. This has been a hard decision to make but is in the best interest of all of us.
Our Nigerian church friends live with insecurity and a sense of fear not knowing where, when or why an incident might take place. Let us raise our prayers to God for their safety and ability to continue the Lord’s work in their land. Pray that the kidnapped girls be found and returned to their homes. Keep the church leaders in your prayers as they seek unity among themselves.
Our Nigerian students in Iowa will be doing the following In June:
Paul Johnson, a junior at Morningside, has returned to Nigeria to visit his family
Ishaya David, a sophomore at Simpson, is a camp counselor at Wesley Woods Camp
Adams Davidson is taking 3 IT classes at Western Iowa Tech Community College
Teddy Pena, son of John and Titi Pena, has summer classes
Yahuda Zailani, a Master’s Degree student at Africa University, is doing a research project in Nigeria Uzajja Dauda is preparing to attend Africa University in August so will secure his Zimbabwe visa. Both of these students were faculty members at Banyam Theological Seminary in Bambur. They both are in need of financial assistance to cover their tuition costs and school fees. Support may be sent through your local church to the conference treasurer designated: INP, #230, Yahuda or Uzajja. Your gift counts!
Remember we have interpreters to come to your church to tell their Nigerian stories.
Contact Beverly Nolte, 515 266 4186, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let us share about the fascinating ministries in the UMC of Nigeria.