This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review


The Toledo (Iowa) church plant project I am working on received a letter from the denominational offices of the Church of the Brethren today. It contains a list of names, those of the more than 200 girls abducted from a school in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria. Many of these girls have connections to the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigheria, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria.

The denomination has also provided a daily prayer guide for this horrifying tragedy. The page shows a photo of my fellow Christian peacemaker, Nate Hosler, demonstrating in D.C. with many others on behalf of the abducted girls. Nate and his wife, Jennifer, spent a number of years in Nigeria teaching Christian peacemaking and my correspondence with them has been edifying. While I don’t have any personal experience with the EYN, I have many friends and colleagues here in the U.S. like Nate and Jennifer who do. So the horror I’ve only barely been able to grasp myself has been brought somewhat closer to me through these connections. I do indeed join my prayers with them and all the saints who are praying for this horrible situation. . . .

Today’s prayer guide scripture is Eph. 1:15-23, which opens: “I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.” — Reading this passage as a prayer, in the mode of lectio devina, I placed my hand on the sheet of paper with the girls’ names on it and pictured (to what little degree I am able) them, their families, and their church communities.

The EYN church has endured much violence and death in the last number of years, and yet their commitment to following the peaceful way of Jesus Christ is a witness to all who would call on the name Jesus. Their faith is indeed worth giving thanks to God for. May the Spirit continue to pour grace into that faith and witness to Jesus Christ.

Another part of the passage:

God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

The greatness of God’s power is fully revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who emptied himself of all worldly power (which was his for the taking) and showed us what real power looks like: sacrifice for others. A crucified and risen Lord, one who endured the cross and was raised from the dead, it was this kind of work which the world deems as foolish, which put Jesus above all things (including rulers and nations) on earth and in the heavenly realm. And notice the bit about the church. The fullness, the entirety, of Jesus Christ fills the church, “all in all.”

The prayers, then, of all saints everywhere and from all times pour forth from this body. When the church prays for these girls, the fullness of Christ is active.

So as the world engages in various forms of work to try and redeem these girls, Christians must pray that such activities would conform to the Lordship of Christ, the humble King, the Prince of Peace.

The daily prayer guide lists “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” which contains some powerful and appropriate theological insight:

(v. 3)
“Jesus!” the name that charms our fears,
that bids our sorrows cease;
’tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’tis life, and health, and peace.

(v. 4)
He breaks the power of canceled sin,
he sets the prisoner free;
his blood can make the foulest clean;
his blood availed for me.

Lord, bring back your girls. Kyrie eleison

Brian R. Gumm is a bi-vocational minister in the Church of the Brethren. Based in Toledo, Iowa, Brian works in educational technology for Eastern Mennonite University and is exploring church-planting and community peacebuilding initiatives in his local community. He writes at Restorative Theology, where this blog post originally appeared.


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