Music makes the people come together — but a potluck dinner isn’t bad insurance.
On Wednesday evening, members of congregations from around Central Pennsylvania gathered at University Baptist and Brethren Church to dine with members of the Women’s Fellowship Choir of Ekklesiyar Yan’uv.
The potluck was just an appetizer to the evening’s main entree. The Nigerian choir was set to perform a few songs during the back end of a three-week tour that has taken them to congregations in seven states across America to deliver one simple message — Thank you.
Counting among their ranks up to eight women who have been internally displaced by Boko Haram, a Islamic extremist group in northeast Nigeria, the choir was formed by the Brethren Evangelism Support Trust with the explicit purpose of repaying the kindness shown by American congregations of the Church of the Brethren.
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Titsi Ganama, a former member of the Nigerian House of Representatives and the chairman of BEST, said the church has offered victims of Boko Haram financial and spiritual aid in their time of need.
“When you receive support from a particular group or individual it is necessary to show appreciation. That is the main reason that we put this choir together,” Ganama said.
Pastor Bonnie Kline Smeltzer viewed the concert as an opportunity for people united in faith to share their pain and offer one another hope.
“The power of music, song and story moves us in ways we can’t anticipate,” Kline Smeltzer said.
Some of the new faces that filled the pastor’s church had lost their homes or members of their family to Boko Haram.
“It’s a wake up call to our wealth and our privilege and the way that can be used to help others,” Kline Smeltzer said.
With only two stops remaining on the tour, executive director of BEST and choir member Esther T. Manggha said that the trip has been a heartwarming experience.
She said that the songs the choir selected to perform are meant to reflect their resolve to move forward as Christians even in times of crisis.
It won’t be easy.
Manggha said that while many displaced Nigerians are beginning to return home, they find that life’s familiar structures like their house, their jobs — even their food — have all been stripped away.
Still, Manggha remains confident that they will be able to recover.
“We are not deterred. We are determined,” Manggha said.