In my previous column, I introduced the work of Pastor Chuwang Pam, an Anabaptist pastor in Los Angeles, originally from Nigeria. Today I want to share more about his ministry of grace, peace and reconciliation in Nigeria since 2018.
First, some background: Pam answered a call to ministry in 1986 as a traveling evangelist in Nigeria. He worked diligently in Plateau State, bringing the gospel to rural communities and college students. Using his skills in music, he put together an evangelism team, touring with concerts and a gospel message offering salvation in Christ Jesus.
Coming to Los Angeles in 1994, Pam saw the grace of God multiply. He planted a church — Los Angeles Faith Chapel, a Mennonite Church USA congregation — with a progressive vision for the community.
In his 24 years of leadership at Los Angeles Faith Chapel, Pam has developed a team of pastors, evangelists, elders and deacons. His mission is to bring men and women to faith, nurturing the broken, oppressed and poor in spirit. Through Christ Jesus he seeks to bring deliverance and hope to the homeless and displaced people of “skid row” and South Central Los Angeles.
Pam and his team established community resources, including transitional housing for the needy. Easing the shortage of affordable housing for those returning to functional lives is the work of empowerment.
In 2018 Pam heard of the conflicts and challenges in Nigeria, including violence in Plateau State between Fulani Islamic herdsmen and farming communities. He sought the Lord prayerfully and — like Nehemiah, who said, “Send me to Judah, the city of my ancestors’ graves, so that I may rebuild it” (Nehemiah 2:5) — resolved to go and see about his kindred’s welfare.
Pam put together a group of community leaders, who took him to 28 villages to see what had happened. State security operatives provided protection for travel to villages surrounded by insurgent Fulani herdsmen armed with automatic weapons.
The villages were deserted, as many families had fled to the city, where they were sheltered in overcrowded camps with few, if any, restrooms or showers. Families had gone hungry for weeks. The government had not made any effort to secure these displaced people. Children wandered without supervision, hungry and naked.
Pam returned to Los Angeles and raised funds for food, sleeping mats and pillows, hygiene supplies and mobile medical care, diagnosing daily about 2,500 people with the help of nurses and volunteers in several camps. A forum for dialogue was opened with leaders to figure out ways of reaching out to the conflicting parties. Village heads and the leader of the Fulani herdsmen finally began to sit together and sort out their differences. The meetings produced proposals for working together despite differences in religion and culture.
Youth took part in sports events sponsored by Pam, fostering peace between communities. Clergy meet consistently to encourage peacebuilding. In a village in Mangu, a community center was built, to be shared by people of differing faiths and languages.
Women’s empowerment projects are providing sewing machines and offering sewing classes. Youth have gained basic knowledge of Microsoft Word in free computer classes.
Thanks to home repairs arranged by Pam and his team, several families returned to their ancestral homes.
On Feb. 15, 2020, Pam arrived in Nigeria for the fourth time since 2018 to continue the work he started. His wife, Grace, and the rest of the mission partners were supposed to meet up with him in two weeks, but then the pandemic hit, with travel restrictions. Pam could not return home but remained in Nigeria, continuing to develop projects that serve the community.
Because these projects are capital intensive, much work remains to restore the well-being of the people of these Nigerian villages. It is a continuing effort that needs a lot of collaboration.
Would you assist with Pam’s mission? I present to you a ripe field — a ministry of reconciliation led by an Anabaptist pastor. You can reach me at email@example.com.