Recently the Central African Republic has seen a positive development in relations between francophone and anglophone church bodies. Specifically, the women of the Yola Diocese of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria have come to the aid of their sisters in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic. Twenty-eight Nigerian women and one male pastor braved a three day drive on bad roads across two international borders to join their Central African sisters at a national women's conference.
The conference, the biennial synod of Femmes Pour Christ Centrafricaines (Women for Christ of the Central African Republic), was held in Bohong, a town in northwestern Central African Republic. This area has seen much violence and unrest in past years, but is now starting to recover as peace has been restored to the region.
The women of the Yola Diocese helped provide music for the conference. Their singing and dancing, accompanied by percussion instruments which they left as gifts, enlivened the synod's proceedings.
In addition to the musical instruments, the Nigerians brought gifts of five sewing machines, jewelry-making materials, fabric, shoes, and kitchen utensils to give to their Central African counterparts. They also offered classes in jewelry-making and in preparing a local non-alcoholic beverage. The Nigerian church women sell these items to raise funds for their church work and to help sustain their families. All travel expenses were paid for by the Nigerian women themselves.
The conference proceedings were translated from Sango (the Central African trade language) into Hausa (a Nigerian trade language), by Josephine Oumarou, the newly elected vice-president of Women for Christ. Madame Simone Baigo-Dari, out-going president, receives our congratulations for having organized this successful meeting, and for inviting the women of the Yola Diocese, whom she met at an international conference held in 2008 in Cameroon.
In a world full of so much ethnic violence and hatred, the women of the Yola Lutheran Diocese of Nigeria have demonstrated that unselfish love and concern for one's neighbors can still be found - and that you don't have to have a lot yourself in order to help others.
Photo shows Nigerian Women's Choir singing, accompanied by traditional percussion instruments.
Deborah and Joe Troester are ELCA missionaries in Baboua, the Central African Republic. Pastor Deborah teaches at the Theological School in Baboua. Joe serves as technical advisor for PASE, which provides clean drinking water and promotes good hygiene and sanitation to villagers. Their daughter Christa is attending seventh grade in Yaoundé, Cameroon.