January 9, 2010

Peace & Rehabilitation {Nigeria}

Salaam Aleichum from Alexandria, Egypt. After a long flight from New York, a couple days in Cairo, and a short drive up to the coast we have reconvened safely with the track community in Alexandria. Egypt is a hazy desert or mixed cultures, familiar smells, and crazy drivers. It kind of feels like we are back in our comfort (i.e. discomfort) zone. The Muslim call to prayer rings through the streets five times a day bringing back fond memories of Afghanistan and ushering in a reverence for God in us all. The track community is doing well and we are excited for a month of sharing in fellowship, helping to facilitate things for the team here as well as for the rest of their time throughout the middle east. We feel it is so important to transition well before we head back to Kona to join the leadership there in February. Again we are so thankful to you all for your support & prayers these past months. We need them now more than ever!

So an amazing opportunity has approached us the last couple days which we desire to share with you. When we arrived in Egypt our friend Geeta who works all across the world with our "Family" invited the two of us to join her for a week long survey trip to Nigeria (January 22nd - 29th). Let us give a little history before we go on -

Nigeria is the most populated country in all of Africa with nearly 150 Million people. It is also one of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of natural resources, primarily in oil, and yet over 70% of the population lives well bellow the poverty line. For decades multinational corporations have done crooked business with the government stealing land from the people and exploiting these natural resources. It seems ridiculous that a country so naturally rich would be a land of such dire poverty, and so the people took up arms. Over the last decade dozens of militias (mostly young men ages 16 -30) have decided to fight for their rights to their land, resorting to violence out of a state of poverty & envy. Our "Family" has had a presence in Nigeria since 2001, often involved in the mix of this violence and attempting to create outlets for education of the youth. Here is where things get amazing. Last year through a long effort of dialog between NGO's, "freedom fighters", and the government over 200 members of various militias decided to lay their arms down and live in rehabilitation camps (remember most of these "freedom fighters" are only in their late teens and early twenties). After the camp was established the government approached our "Family" and asked if they would be willing to be involved in the rehabilitation work of ex-fighters seeing a deep need for spiritual renewal as much as psychological. Our "Family" agreed and has since been involved in the process. Over the last year of the 200 ex-fighters over half have become believers and starting last month 60 of these once vengeance seeking militia kids, now young recovering believers, are partaking in one of our Discipleship Training Programs in Nigeria! How amazing is that!!! Well the peace & reconciliation & rehabilitation effort continues on as sure as the bullets continue to fly and it's at this point that Geeta comes along and asks us if we would like to come with her to this camp to document the work and see how PhotogenX can get involved in the future.

As soon as Geeta mentioned the trip to us we felt a stirring in our hearts. As we discussed it with our leaders, they too were excited about the possibilities and thought the timing was perfect, as this is a transitioning period for the whole team. They are encouraging us to go. We have entered into prayer and ask for you to pray for us as well. With us being in Egypt it is only a five hour flight to Lagos, Nigeria and this short trip could open a ton of doors for PhotogenX (not to mention our wider "Family" in Kona) to come along a support an amazing effort that God has birthed. There is so much need for new creative and non-violent efforts for justice in Nigeria. There is so much need for conversations and the stories of these kids to be told. There is so much injustice in the dark that needs to be brought into the light.We believe our Father is moving...


There are a couple major needs we have for this trip to Nigeria to happen - Prayer & Money (sound familiar). We need a lot of prayer as this is only two weeks away. We are trying to apply for visas within a foreign country working with the Nigerian Embassy in Cairo. Pray for favor! We need a stamped entry visa in about a week! We also need to get some special vaccinations and figure out flight details. So much prayer is needed!

We also need to raise about $2000 total ($1500 for tickets, $300 for visas, $200 for food & housing) to cover the cost of the trip as we don't have the income to cover everything. Every bit will help. If you or your community feel led to make a special one time contribution towards this effort, you can do so by donating at the PAYPAL link below. All the finances will go directly towards this effort. If the doors close because of visa rejection, we would be happy to return dontations given or you may specify if you would like the money to be used toward future work with PhotogenX.

Thank you for always walking with us. Pray for us this week as we wrestle through this process. Pray God's favor would be upon us and that all the governing officials that have to check "yes" boxes will put their pens to the papers and do so quickly. Pray also for safety and wisdom as Nigeria isn't always the safest place to be. We love you and hope that in February when we head back to Kona we can have a multitude of amazing stories to share with you all!!!

We would love to hear from you.

Blessings from Egypt,
Steve & Diane Schallert

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