Michiana ties to kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls

Local Church of the Brethren members are praying for the hundreds of Nigerian girls who are still being held hostage by an Islamist terror group.

A majority of those girls are said to be members of the church in Nigeria.

"It's a Brethren region," explained Pastor Frank Ramirez of Union Center Church of the Brethren in Nappanee. "And the majority, more than 50 percent of the young women are Brethren."

Ramirez said the denomination, which is headquartered in Elgin, Illinois, sent a list of the names of the abducted girls to each congregation on Friday. Each was assigned a girl's name to pray for in particular.

"Not that that person is more important than the others," Ramirez said. "But I think it is to let us have a focus... it humanizes the crisis."

Fellow Pastor Rhonda Dorn says the connection between church members in the U.S. and Nigeria is particularly strong.

"Also being a parent that was another huge connection for me and a person who works with youth that age -- there are just so many connections," Dorn said. "I felt a need to pray for those who are captured or have a family member captured."

The Church of the Brethren in the U.S. began mission work in Nigeria back in the 1920s. Today, the population in the country far exceeds that of the United States.

"As a member you've probably met several Nigerian Brethren who come out here," Ramirez said "They are just as much missionaries to American Brethren as American Brethren were missionaries to Nigeria."

Pastor Bev Weaver of the Goshen City Church of the Brethren feels an even deeper connection as a female pastor.

"Over Mother's Day weekend we are in anguish because children have been taken away," Weaver said.

She says she is pleased to see the social media response to the crisis because it is important to continue to give this issue attention.

"My heart breaks thinking of them being one of my daughters, and waking up one day knowing my daughters there and waking up the next day knowing she's gone and may have been sold," she said.

The Church is known around the world for its tradition of non-violence.

Many local members say they are relying on world leaders to take productive steps towards bringing their fellow Brethren home.

"We'd like to have a movie ending and have everyone cheer at the end of the film," Ramirez said. "But the issues are extremely complex and I want to respect the best intentions and the best will of everyone involved in places of power."

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