God is at work across boundaries of space and culture
February 5, 2021
Although mission co-workers Rachel and Michael Ludwig were pained to leave Niger when the State Department ordered citizens to return to the U.S., they believe they are still having a lasting impact through partnership bridges they have built since they answered the call to serve there in 2014.
“Being away from Niger has been difficult. We want to be there with our friends and colleagues in the Evangelical Church in the Republic of Niger (EERN),” Michael Ludwig said. “Still, we have been finding ways to stay involved in the work and continue to be an encouraging presence for the church leaders, even at a distance. I continue to support my colleague, Pastor Issa, the national Community Health Evangelism (CHE) trainer, to develop individualized training during COVID-19 restrictions. And we’re using this time to intensively translate our CHE lessons into the native Hausa language so that local evangelists can better use the lesson plans themselves.”
While being away has been difficult, he said the time away has helped them see clearly the blessings that have developed through the partnership between EERN and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “It’s a beautiful part of our life as mission co-workers,” he said, “to see God at work in the way they share across boundaries of space and culture.
“I think of a farmer who came to visit us and is now helping an EERN Bible school give out fertilizer loans for the students to increase their harvest,” he said. “The resilience of the people amid the massive but familiar problem of soil degradation inspired him. I also think of a former Peace Corps educator in West Africa who has now partnered to build several student hosting centers.”
Ludwig said another of their supporting churches heard about their Community Health Evangelism (CHE) work to employ young people as taxi drivers. They planned a social event to raise funds to support the taxi program, which in turn is supporting the national CHE trainer’s travel to mentor others. There are others, including a Presbyterian Women group helping with hygiene kits for middle school girls, an infectious disease professor rallying around the EERN nursing school, and a Presbytery in Michigan working to form a focused partnership with EERN national church leaders.
But the support goes far beyond financial, he said.
“I want to highlight the power of prayer, and networking with like-minded people. Several PC(USA) congregations and individual members have come together to form the Niger Mission Network (NMN) to coordinate and encourage deeper involvement in this partnership,” he said. “This has been key in distributing prayer requests for the EERN monthly. Consequently, several of the NMN participants to Niger in 2019 have taken up constant prayer for our siblings in the EERN and their specific efforts. Providing that kind of covering in prayer is a great gift to the church, and we trust it makes a difference in people’s lives with the amazing ways God can use prayer.”
Ludwig said it is not just U.S. Christians that fuel the partnership, but also Nigerian Christians who seek faithful ways to be the Church.
“They are a witness of faith amidst struggle to people like us who enjoy the benefits of coming from a religious majority and an economically powerful context. Despite all they have had to overcome, it’s been encouraging to witness our partners in the EERN who have been inspired to do new things through interactions with members from the PC(USA). I immediately think of the pastors who wouldn’t have thought it possible to establish groups to loan each other seeds, fertilizer and business money,” he said. “Or the ones who can now provide the blessing of transportation for neighbors as a result of the benefits they’ve found in our partnership programs. Neither would many of the church leaders have predicted their denomination could operate car and motorcycle taxis or rent homes to fund their outreach until there was sustainable business support from this partnership.”
CHE is a model that helps communities identify and respond to their greatest needs with their own resources. The CHE method offers a strategy for empowering pastors and evangelists, who then play a vital role in bringing about transformation in communities.
Kathy Melvin, Director of Mission Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Evangelical Church in the Republic of Niger (EERN)
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
God of love, thank you for modeling true compassion and peace. Fill us with your love so that we perceive and understand others the way you do., Use us to make an impact on our communities and churches, and to achieve a world of perfect peace. We pray all of this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.