Sunday, February 8, 2015

Hi Dear Family and Friends,
Please bear with us as we write to you about the recent events affecting Christians in Niger. To honor and tell this with the detail it deserves, this letter is going to be long. We have added a number of other resources.
Today the many Nigerian Christians meet in what remains of burnt out buildings or rented tents. Let us remember the church is not the building, but the people. Praise God, we worship Him in spirit and in truth, not in a specific place.
A quote from SIM NIGER follows:
Recent attacks against Christian churches and homes of believers in cities across Niger (Saturday and Sunday, 17-18 January) have left a wake of destruction, pain, and fear.  These events have resulted in the deaths of 10 Nigeriens (not Christians), millions of dollars in damaged property, and a community stunned at this unexpected wave of violence.  Christians are currently wrestling with the trauma of this loss and some even left without homes and basic necessities.  Furthermore, in a country among the poorest in the world the Nigerien Church will struggle to rebuild damaged churches, pastors’ homes, and ministry centers. SIM stands with our church partners in picking up the pieces, rebuilding what was destroyed, and continuing to proclaim the love of Jesus in a country that so desperately needs to hear.  

Approx. 47 evangelical churches damaged or destroyed, plus additional 12 catholic churches, this number varies depending on the source. Many pastor's homes and homes of Christians were also destroyed. In addition  to many other business buildings and a youth centre, there were other Christian work endeavors, such as an orphanage in Niamey, that were targeted and fell victim to the rioters. In one hard hit community 50 homes of Christians were destroyed. We give thanks that not one Christian died in the fires for which we praised God. The person's found dead in the burnt out building were looters who entered the building and got trapped by the fire. In the cases of homes, looters first removed all they could carry prior to setting fire and it was also reported that even zinc roofing material  had been removed. Christians fled with only their clothes on their back.
 
 


On Friday morning we became aware of the anticipated problems. We had planned to travel to Galmi because Saratou was sick, so we made a hasty departure so we could be off the roads prior to 2 pm. Galmi remained on alert but not affected by the activity in the rest of the country. We give praise that any attempts made in Maradi were swiftly dealt with by the authorities. This past weekend there were rumors that demonstrations would resume, we are happy to report the country has been peaceful. We have not lived in fear, but this has not been without stress. We have a ready bag packed for a rapid departure if the need arose.

We had gone to Galmi that weekend because Saratou had been sick for a week. She had been suffering from typhoid, likely from some contaminated food. We praise God that she is better. While sick, Sani was an excellent caregiver and father to Saratou and Samuel. So much so he became exhausted and developed a bad cold. We are happy to report he too has recovered, however now Samuel has malaria. He is currently undergoing treatment.
On Thursday night Orest became ill and on Friday we went to Danja (another SIM hospital) 30 km. from where we are and Orest was treated with IV fluids and malaria treatment. He is weak and still experiencing symptoms. Prayers are the best medicine. I was certainly grateful for the blanket and mat we had put into the vehicle the day prior as part of our rapid departure strategy, both came in very handy at the hospital. How interesting God set a plan before us to follow. If we had not been obedient to the quiet small nudging we would not have these pleasant items to help keep Orest comfortable.

On the personal front, we believe we have found a home in the city. The landlord is Christian and specifically wants Christians residing in the home. It is larger than our needs, so the second floor will be developed into either a guesthouse or other Christian work endeavor. Pray the work in the house can be completed and the contract can be completed. We trust in God in this matter and seek His direction.
 
In light of the past week’s events the Christian Evangelical church leadership developed this statement:

DECLARATION OF THE ALLIANCE OF EVANGELICAL MISSIONS AND CHURCHES OF NIGER (AMEEN)

Following the events that occurred on the 16th and 17th of January in our country.

AMEEN is making the following declaration to the national and international community and all its various forms:

1. Let us forcefully condemn all desecration of what is holy and inciting of violence in the name of the freedom of speech.
2. Let us reject violence in all its forms for God is a God of peace.
3. Let us ask every citizen to make no further attacks on places of prayer and worship dedicated to God.
4. Let us address our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and our prayers for the rapid healing of the injured.
5. Let us address prayers to God that He might grant forgiveness to those who took part in these events.
6. Let us ask Christians to grant forgiveness to their relatives, neighbors and ethnic brothers that took part in these painful events.
7. Let us encourage all Nigeriens to live in peace and justice for such is the will of God.
8. Let us call the entire population of Niger to rise up as one to promote peace and the peaceful coexistence of all the sons and daughters of this country. 
9. Let us address our recognition and profound gratitude to all Muslims moved by peace and justice who spontaneously brought their aid by protecting Christians, their places of worship and sheltering homeless families.
10. Let us call on the government to put everything in place for the rapid compensation of damages to all the victims who suffered losses in the recent events.
11. The provisional assessment is sixty-eight (68) churches and homes destroyed.
12. Despite our deep sense of being refugees in our own country, we strongly call the whole Christian community to remain resolutely in a disposition of peace.
 
Written in Niamey, January 22, 2015

 Another resource is to search on the internet: WorldWatchMonitor then scroll down to Niger for their story.    

SIM stands with our church partners in picking up the pieces, rebuilding what was destroyed, and continuing to proclaim the love of Jesus in a country that so desperately needs to hear.  
 
If you would like to help us put out the word of this project and how people can get involved.  As one church president shared with me last night, "This is a very important moment in the life of the Church in Niger."

SIM has created a project that individual or groups can contribute to as follows:

 "Niger Persecution Relief Project" (NE97308).  Donors can send money immediately to this fund to help with the relief effort through the various national SIM offices (SIM USA, Canada, Australia, etc.).  SIM Niger seeks to stand with the Church in the aftermath of this crisis.  SIM-Niger’s strategy is to offer comfort, relief, and restoration to our partner churches with the resources available to us.  When informing your correspondents of this opportunity to contribute, please have them indicate the project number (NE97308) AND the description "Niger Persecution Relief".  

Go to sim.ca and go to donations, enter the project number. SIM Niger will oversee the distribution and management of these funds.
Your faithful prayers are essential for the Christian church in Niger and World.
We declare Psalm 18:2
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer, my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Blessings,Orest and Grace
Mailing address: BP 121, Maradi, Niger
Republic Niger, West Africa

Canadian mailing address: c/o 721 Swailes Ave., Winnipeg MB, R2V 4N6