Photo: Bishop Victor UmohAbasi, president of Mennonite Church Nigeria, describes the water purification process at the new facility. Beside him are Psalmist Ekpedeme Jackson – MCN’s national youth president, Femi Fatunmbi and Stanley Green. Photographer: Bruce Yoder.
Mennonite Church Nigeria shares the good news of Jesus Christ in every way possible–through dynamic preaching and teaching, powerful prayer, Spirit-filled music, and in meeting the needs of their community. On Dec. 19, during their annual convention, Mennonite Church Nigeria realized a long-cherished dream – to offer bags of clean drinking water in the name Jesus, the Living Water.
For the past four years, the Mennonite Church headquarters in Ikot Ada Idem has been preparing for this ministry to offer water that is free of disease-provoking organisms, like parasites and E. coli. In 2011, they dug a well and covered it. Then, as funds became available, they began to build the rooms to house the water-purification and bagging machines. The completed building, which was dedicated last month, also has space for storage, sales and the church offices.
Bishop Victor UmohAbasi, president of Mennonite Church Nigeria, estimated the total cost of the water-processing facility and registration with the government at about $250,000. Over the past four years, Mennonite Mission Network contributed $54,000 to the project, but the majority of the funding came from local sources.
“Mennonite Mission Network is a good partner,” UmohAbasi said. “They have acted powerfully in supporting us and encouraging us. MMN wants us to grow; they help our legs get fatter [creating a more solid infrastructure for Mennonite Church Nigeria].”
On the morning of the inauguration, the first water bags, labeled SMenno (for Menno Simons), slipped
from the machine that feeds two strips of plastic film through a crimping mechanism to hold the stream of filtered, sterilized water pumped from the well. Each bag, holding about two cups, is sold for five cents.
The bagged water sold out quickly with many suppliers buying 20 at a time. One supplier requested a standing order of 4,000 bags each morning. There is ample room in the water factory for additional bagging machines.
Stanley Green, executive director of Mission Network, presided over the dedication of the SMenno Table Water facility.
“I am grateful to God that Mennonite Mission Network is privileged to be partnered with Mennonite Church Nigeria,” Green said. “I believe that God will bless the project and that it can become a resource to build capacity for expanded mission.”
Also present from Mission Network was Bruce Yoder, who has worked alongside Mennonite Church Nigeria for 15 years.
Femi Fatunmbi, moderator of Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference, praised the water initiative and promised continued collaboration of the congregation he pastors in Los Angeles. Royal Dominion International Church has worked with Mennonite Church Nigeria in a variety of ways, as has the African, Belizean and Caribbean Mennonite Mission Association (a Mennonite Church USA constituency group). Both pledged to continue to walk alongside Mennonite Church Nigeria.
“We partner for advocacy, [providing] resources for Mennonite Church Nigeria’s planned program for peace and justice issues within the community, with focus on reconciliation among Muslims and Christians, children, youth programs,” Fatunmbi said. “We also assist in seeking grants and scholarships to train leaders and peacemakers.”
Whether in its figurative sense as Nigerian Mennonites reach out to their communities with spiritual nourishment and education, or in its literal sense, Green’s concluding statement at the dedication of the SMenno Table Water facility is a fervent prayer: “May each of us share the Water of Life, who is Jesus, our Lord, with a thirsty world.” The benediction was received with thunderous “Amens” and jubilant praise.