In an area where electrical power is often limited and unreliable, a computer center continues to fill a vital niche by keeping people connected while also connecting people from different faith communities.
The Beverly Nolte Communication Center in the Central Nigeria Conference has been uniting Christians, Muslims and people of other faiths as they work side by side to learn how to use modern communication tools and strengthen their technology skills.
The Rev. Eli Yakku, conference administrative assistant to Bishop John Wesley Yohanna, said the center serves as a tool for evangelism by offering an open arm to interfaith communities. Yakku says the center provides computer training as well as commercial internet, typesetting and printing services to all its community members regardless of religious affiliation or denomination.
Students come from near and far to attend classes. The institute is the only place that provides computer training and internet services to Bambur and its neighboring villages, which are cut off from larger urban areas because of a lack of access roads.
More than 300 students have graduated from Beverly Nolte since its inception in 2006.
“The computer center has created a positive impact by providing its service to the general public, especially the young persons who are seeking computer knowledge to help them in their education and future careers,” Nolte said
Mission Garba Sako, one of the graduating students, said the classes have been life-changing.
“The training is foundational, vital and very essential because the skills, experiences and discipline I acquired help me to become self-reliant and self-employed.”
He said he is thankful the center provides computer training right at his doorstep. He also said that because of the skills he has acquired, he is prepared to further his education and share what he has learned with other members of his community as a way of giving back.
“A computer center is where people, especially young people, learn basic technological skills that will allow them to get positions in companies and/or jobs in the business area that will enhance their lives,” Nolte said.
The computer center is named after Nolte, chairwoman of a partnership between The United Methodist Church in Nigeria and Iowa Conference. She has been working with the Nigeria conference for more than 25 years.
Together, they saw that, even in the 21st century, The United Methodist Church in Nigeria faces challenges utilizing modern communication. Most households cannot afford to pay for power, let alone internet connections. Those who can afford the internet are often frustrated by poor connections and low speeds, making it difficult to send and receive church information.
Since being established, with support from the Iowa Conference and United Methodist Global Ministries, the center is able to connect local churches and provide access to United Methodist websites. The facility also provides internet service to the public for a fee.
People can go to the center to type and print reports, make photocopies and browse the internet or send emails. Students also can fill out online registration forms and pay their school fees.
The center charges students fees based on the length of their training. Students training for one year pay 20,000 naira ($55 U.S.), while students training for six months pay 15,000 naira ($41).
The money helps the school buy fuel for the generator, maintain computers and other equipment and buy new accessories.
Nolte said it’s important for the Nigerian United Methodist Church to continue to offer classes to its youth so that they can become leaders in the church, community and nation.
“Knowing how to use the computer, to let your fingers do the walking/talking, allowing your mind to grasp a new form of communication in the age of technology is extremely important,” she said. “It enhances your ability to learn, to grow as a person and to become productive.”
Fidelis is a communicator for the Cental Nigeria Conference.