Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Visit to Niger, May/June, 2012

Eglise Evangelical de la Republique du Niger
 - the Evangelical Church in the Republic of Niger

In this post, I want to show some pictures from a trip Debbie Braaksma and I made to Niger at the end of May, 2012, to visit the PCUSA partner there, the Evangelical Church in the Republic of Niger.  Christians in Niger are only 1% of the population, so they are a tiny minority in an overwhelmingly Muslim nation.  But the EERN is a vibrant church and joyful church, despite this minority status. 

Currently, there are two congregations in the city of Niamey, which is far away from the heartland of the church in Maradi, Niger, some 400 miles to the east. One congregation is more established, comprised of professionals working in the city and their children. The other sits on the edge of the university campus and is made up primarily of students. 

Our first Sunday in Niamey, we worshipped with the university students, who were celebrating a special Sunday, lifting up the gift of women.  The entire service -- preaching, praying, singing, was led by the women of the church. This was a bit unusual for the EERN, a church which still restricts ordained ministry to men. 


The young women's choir.
After worship, the congregation processed to the nearby Niger River, where five youth were baptized into church membership.  The river was quite busy that day -- cattle were drinking, women were washing clothes, children were swimming, and in the distance you could spot a pair of hippos.  All of this while the baptisms were taking place. 


Over the past ten years, the PCUSA has helped the EERN develop its schools.  Through the Presbyterian Hunger Program, wells have been built in underdeveloped rural villages.  Currently, we exploring the possibility of helping the church with literacy programs.  In a country were the literacy rate is approximately 30%, there is a great need for literacy education. 

In some villages, the church's pastors and evangelists are the only people who have received a formal education.  Many residents seek them out, asking for literacy instruction.  It's a prime opportunity for the church to reach out,


A typical village school, run by the government of Niger. 
Some buildings are made of mud brick, like the one above.
Others from millet stalks, like the two 'buildings' in the distance below.

















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