Archive for the ‘News’ Category

News from Nigeria

You will know, of course, that we have hoped to increase SCWA’s influence in Nigeria for some time. So we are delighted that focus groups have begun in Eket and Oron, to research the local roots, realities and responses to witchcraft accusations against children. This is essential in order to ensure that we understand the local context and are well placed to recommend appropriate and targeted responses.

Delegates from the Storychangers
training event in Eket, Nigeria.

Unfortunately, we have experienced a setback in our plans for a Round Table Action Forum and for ‘Heart of the Matter’ training in Calabar. The UK Foreign Office has designated Akwa Ibom and Cross River States (in which Eket and Calabar are situated) ‘red zones’ because of hijackings and abductions in those areas. This has made it impossible for Susie and Carolyn to secure travel insurance, which means they will be unable to travel to Nigeria in the Spring. However, Maimouna Obot (Storychangers) is still able to travel to Nigeria because the German government has not imposed the same restrictions. Maimouna will therefore carry out ‘Heart of the Matter’ trainings in Eket and Oron, and we are deferring the Forum and Calabar Heart of the Matter training until the Foreign Office’s ‘no travel’ recommendation is lifted.

Please pray that the focus groups will yield valuable insights into child witch accusations in Nigeria. Pray for Maimouna, too, as she delivers the Heart of the Matter trainings in Eket and Oron. And let’s pray that it will be possible to hold the Forum and Calabar Heart of the Matter training soon.

 

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A prayer for 2020

‘I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessèd God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.’ (Methodist Worship Book, 1999, page 290)

Methodist churches hold an annual Covenant Service – a reaffirmation of faith and commitment to God’s service. Many churches do this at the start of the new year. The Covenant Prayer, written by John Wesley and adapted by generations of Methodists since, forms the centrepiece of that service. It’s the simplicity of the prayer that first strikes you. There’s no elaborate language or spiritual grandstanding, just a sense of straightforward but heartfelt commitment to God. If anything, the prayer feels more meaningful for being so understated.

A lot of people start the new year with great ambitions for the next twelve months – and there’s nothing wrong with that – but we know from experience that there’s no telling where God and circumstances will take us. We are still excited about the possibilities of what God might do through us, but we’re choosing to start 2020 by surrendering ourselves to him and his purposes. We’re obviously not all Methodists, but we think their Covenant Prayer is a perfect way of doing that. So let’s pray this prayer together. Let’s start the year by dedicating ourselves to God and look to see his guiding hand in our work, our relationships and our churches.

We aim to carry the same sense of submission to God into the rest of the year. We’d love it if you would join us in that, by praying regularly for us and our partners. Find out more about how to pray for BCT.

 

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More violence in DR Congo

Our local partner, LVLE, is based in Goma.

We’ve posted several times recently about the unrest in DR Congo, especially the Ebola epidemic. Developments this week seem to show that the already fragile situation is deteriorating further.

An increase in violence has led to the suspension of efforts to treat and contain Ebola, at a time when it appeared that the epidemic was finally being brought under control. Along with this, there has been an outbreak of measles, claiming 5,000 lives. The vaccination campaign against measles is likely to be disrupted by the increased violence.

Please stand with us in continuing prayer for DR Congo:

  • Pray for an end to the violence.
  • Pray for efforts to treat Ebola and measles to continue, to prevent further loss of life.
  • And pray for our partners and friends, LVLE, who are faithfully continuing their vital work, despite the unrest.

 

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Champions changes

We’re currently working on some exciting new developments to our Champions for Children initiative. There will be a full announcement in the new year, so watch this space. In the meantime, while we’re discussing developments with our existing Champions, I’m afraid you’ll have to make do with this little teaser!

 

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Expect the unexpected

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’ Isaiah 43:19

LVLE’s Director, Rev Jean-Paul Aruna, leads the workshop delegates in prayer.

The Judeans were traumatised. Their capital had fallen to their enemies, they had been forcibly exiled to Babylon and even their king had been led off in chains. The loss was devastating and it must have been hard for them to believe things could ever get better. But through Isaiah, God speaks to Judah – hopeless, traumatised and far from home – and proclaims that he has a plan. The people might even have stopped believing things could ever be different for them, but God is doing a new thing. Their enemies will be toppled. They will go home. There is still hope.

When we’re used to things being a certain way, it’s easy to assume that this is the way things will always be. We often expect God will operate within our own preconceived ideas of what’s possible, and it’s simultaneously wonderful and disturbing when God disrupts those ideas. The truth is, we can never predict what God will do.

At BCT, we’re learning to expect the unexpected. When LVLE (our partners in DR Congo) agreed to train a group of pastors in handling child witch accusations, they hoped to make a difference but they could have had no idea of just how much God would do through them. After the initial workshop in Masisi, the pastors’ attitudes towards children had been transformed. Some had previously actively encouraged accusing children of witchcraft, but all were now steadfastly committed to protecting children. And even better was to follow when the LVLE team returned for a follow-up seminar this year: the pastors revealed that they had met with the local authorities to discuss how to safeguard children and ensure that laws against child witch accusations would be enforced. Even the police now wanted to receive LVLE’s training on the issue. In a context where children are frequently abused with impunity, this kind of progress is astonishing.

God had made a way. He had gone far above and beyond what we and our partners had believed was possible and transformed a dark and seemingly hopeless situation.

How wonderful to be reminded of what God can do. Nothing is impossible for him. He is in control. He is making a way.

 

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DR Congo still needs our prayers

Despite a widespread vaccination programme, the Ebola crisis in DR Congo is rumbling on.

According to The New Humanitarian, a ‘militarised’ response to the crisis has deepened hostility towards aid workers within local communities. Security forces are reportedly being heavy handed in enforcing measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including threatening violence when people refuse to take the prescribed precautionary steps.

This is exacerbating an already tense situation in which healthcare workers were treated warily by communities who largely didn’t trust them or understand what they were doing.

Please continue to pray with us for a swift, sensitive and effective response to this crisis. For as long as the Ebola epidemic continues, lives will be lost. Please pray especially for Patient (pictured), a team member at LVLE, who is taking part in an Ebola treatment and prevention programme 300km to the north of Goma.

 

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Standing in the Gap

‘Standing in the Gap’, the SCWA prayer campaign, is up and running again for the third consecutive year. The last two years of the campaign have offered really valuable opportunities for focused prayer around the issue of child witch accusations, and for the children affected. What’s more, we have seen clear progress in SCWA’s work and growth in its network since we started praying in this way. So, we believe it is not just wise but necessary to resume the ‘Standing in the Gap’ campaign.
Please join us in praying, especially between now and the end of January. And do forward the prayer bulletins to anyone in your church or community who might be interested. The first prayer bulletin of this year’s campaign can be found at https://stop-cwa.org/posts/prayer-campaign-3a and a new bulletin will be posted every two weeks.
Join us for four months of sustained prayer for children accused of witchcraft, their communities, and churches and agencies with opportunities to speak and act on the issue. The first prayer bulletin of the campaign is available now.
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Witch Way Forward

Thousands of people around the world are affected by harmful practices relating to witchcraft: either being accused of witchcraft and abused as a result, or themselves being subjected to horrendous violence as part of occult practices.

Next week, the UN will debate a ground-breaking resolution on harmful practices related to manifestation of belief in witchcraft.

Ahead of this debate, our friends at WHRIN, alongside Lancaster University and the UN Independent Expert on Human Rights of Persons with Albinism, have launched the Witch Way Forward campaign, to influence the UN and other stakeholders to take action on this issue.

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All the latest from Rwanda

Thank you so much for praying for Susie while she was in Rwanda, visiting APRECOM. Susie is now back in the UK after a very encouraging time with Odeth, Emma and the team.

Susie tells us: ‘In my prayer requests before I left, I wrote, “Please pray that we will keep in step with Holy Spirit; be daily filled with his presence; be effective in imparting his truth and word throughout the trainings and that he will bring about outcomes that exceed all our expectations.” These prayers were wonderfully answered above and beyond all we had hoped for. Thank you for being part of the adventure through your prayers and all glory to God for his goodness and faithfulness!’

You can read all about Susie’s time in Rwanda and APRECOM’s wonderful work by downloading her full report here.

 

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Do not disturb

‘Let nothing disturb thee,
Nothing affright thee
All things are passing;
God never changeth.’ St Teresa of Avila

I always find St Teresa’s words comforting, largely because I get ‘disturbed’ quite easily – I’m a bit of a worrier. And there’s a lot going on in the world at the moment which could disturb us, if we let it.

After a year of Ebola in DR Congo, 2,300 people have been infected and, if anything, the spread of the virus is accelerating. In the UK, we are facing the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, carrying the threat of food and medicine shortages. New research is revealing just how extreme the climate emergency is. And for us and our project partners, the issues affecting the children we serve are huge; at times, those issues seem completely intractable.

Yet, there is still hope. Our God is the same, ‘yesterday, today and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8). He is strong, he loves us and he is utterly faithful. So we should not be disturbed, whatever is going on around us.

Of course, that’s not to say that we should just ignore the problems in the world. Far from it. We have the power to act: to bring change on big issues, to influence decision-makers when we can’t bring that change directly, to play a part in God’s plan to make Earth more like heaven. When the challenge is just too great, we can pray to the one who endures forever, who can literally move mountains. There are some alarming things going on in the world but then, that’s always been true. It’s up to us to choose whether or not those things disturb us!

We and our partners are bringing change on issues that harm children. You can be part of this work, too. Here’s how.

 

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