The women's fellowship choir from the Ekklesiyar yan'uwa A Nigeria church perform at the Brethren Center in New Windsor Monday night.
As the 50 bus passengers got out Monday evening at the Brethren Service Center, it marked the completion of a 24-hour trip from the West African nation of Nigeria to the U.S. The tired and hungry sojourners were ushered into the Zigler Hospitality Center where they were welcomed and fed.
This group, members of the Nigerian Church Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria, also known as EYN, brought something special. As dinner finished up, the 30 women who make up EYN's Women's Fellowship Choir gave a brief performance of traditional Christian hymns while the remainder of the group and representatives of the Church of the Brethren took it all in.
This is the first time in more than a decade the choir has accompanied EYN representation to the U.S., said Monroe Good, a former missionary to Nigeria who is the main instigator of the bi-annual trip.
"We brought the choir this year because [the Church of the Brethren has] responded in such a way it's been very meaningful and helpful," Good said.
The brief entertainment from the Women's Fellowship Choir is EYN's way of showing gratitude for the efforts made by the American branch of the Church of the Brethren to raise money for victims of violence and displacement in Nigeria as a result of the atrocities being committed by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram.
The choir will spend the next three-and-a-half weeks touring the East Coast performing at various Brethren churches.
Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden" and the group has officially been categorized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Government.
Boko Haram began concentrating its efforts in Nigeria in 2009, when Abubakar Muhammad Shekau took over as the organization's leader. Described by the EYN as part intellectual and part gangster, Shekau has been quoted as saying, "I enjoy killing anyone that God commands me to kill just like I enjoy killing rodents, insects and roaches."
According to statistics compiled by the EYN, 8,000 members have been killed and over 700,000 have been displaced as of December.
The church has raised almost $1.5 million for the Nigeria Crisis Response fundraiser, as well as donating another $1.5 million for the cause. They are more than halfway to their goal of $5.3 million.
Charity Mshelia, choir mistress and member of EYN, said 90 percent of the Women's Fellowship is made up of Nigerian women that have been displaced from their homes due to the actions of Boko Haram. Mshelia, who joined the choir 17 years ago, said she is looking forward to the three-and-a-half week tour and the opportunity to thank the American branch of the Church of the Brethren for their untiring efforts.
"We want to renew and strengthen the relationship between our two churches and appreciate all their support during our crisis," she said.
The choir has two more performances scheduled in Maryland before they head to Pennsylvania for the second leg of the tour. They will be performing in various states throughout the east coast as well as Indiana and Ohio.