Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Newsline: May 20, 2014


Planting conference looks toward an intercultural church

Church of the Brethren planters and those interested in church planting gathered for the 2014 conference, “Plant Generously, Reap Bountifully--Toward an Intercultural Future.” The conference is offered every two years, sponsored by Congregational Life Ministries and the New Church Development Advisory Committee.

A painting by Dave Weiss illustrates the theme of the church planting conference.
Held May 15-17 in Richmond, Ind., with hosting from Bethany Theological Seminary, the gathering used Rev. 7:9 as a focus for conversation about developing church plants and revitalizing existing congregations to reflect the intercultural nature of the vision of Revelation.

Find a photo album from the conference at www.bluemelon.com/churchofthebrethren/2014churchplantingconference. The Twitter conversation from the event is found via the hashtag #cobplant .

Speakers point to the multicultural environment

The two keynote speakers, Efrem Smith and Alejandro (Alex) Mandes, spoke from their own experience as church planters. Smith is president and CEO of World Impact, an urban missions organization committed to the empowerment of the urban poor through the facilitation of church planting movements and leadership development, and previously was superintendent of the Pacific Southwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church. Mandes is director of Hispanic Ministries for the Evangelical Free Church of America, and has planted three churches.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Efrem Smith speaks at the 2014 church planting conference.
Smith called for work to prepare the church for the kingdom of God. Referencing images from parables told by Jesus in the gospel of Matthew, he recalled the story of bridesmaids waiting for the groom to come to the wedding, who must keep their oil lamps full and burning. He compared church planters to bridesmaids whose job is to prepare the bride--that is the church--for the coming of the kingdom of God. “We must have a kingdom passion and a kingdom urgency,” he said.

Church planting also can be compared to the slaves in another parables, whose master gave them money to care for and invest in his absence, Smith said. God is investing in us as “kingdom capital,” he told the gathering. Every time someone is saved, or helped, by the church, that “kingdom capital” is growing. Church plants need to be expanding the work of the kingdom of God, which is marked by compassion and justice, he emphasized.

“This is what will really lead to healthy church planting,” Smith said, “when the whole gospel is embraced.... When it’s about helping the hurting, blessing the broken, liberating the enslaved.”

Later, in an evening message, Smith explicitly called churches and new church plants to be about the work of “developing missional ministries of compassion.”

Mandes expressed a similar sense of urgency. Speaking out of the context of Hispanic America, and the immigrant population in the United States, he shared his concern that the church has a “spiritual blindness” to the new people populating the country.

“I have learned to love the differences in the body of Christ,” Mandes said, as he urged new church planters and pastors of existing congregations to look around them for the opportunities offered by the changing dynamics of the nation. “We have to really get this, because otherwise it will be our undoing.”

Retelling John’s story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well, he pointed to her ability to bring her whole community to meet Jesus, and the disciples’ inability to see her gifts, much less to see her as a person. He compared her to the immigrants from many different parts of the world who are living in the United States. They deserve regard as individuals, and the church is called to welcome them and their gifts. “Why didn’t the disciples see?” he asked. “Why aren’t we seeing? Why aren’t our churches seeing? Why don’t we see the Samaritans around us?”

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Alejandro (Alex) Mandes shares a sense of urgency about the need for the church “to be able to see like Jesus sees” and to see the treasure, creativity, and power that God is bringing through people from many different backgrounds.
“There’s something very special that God is doing today” in the United States, Mandes said, referring to the many different people who are being brought together in this country. “But our denominations are missing it.... Are we also falling into the trap of not seeing it?” America has a history of trying to get rid of people who are inconvenient, he noted, but “I think there is a treasure in that new group.”

The bedrock of the biblical foundation, he reminded the conference, is “to be able to see like Jesus sees” and to see the treasure, creativity, and power that God is bringing to our shores. “We can be one church of 31 flavors.”

Worship, Bible study, workshops round out a packed schedule

Worship services, a Bible study of Revelation, and a plethora of in-depth workshops and short “Mustard Seed” presentations by a number of different presenters rounded out the packed schedule. Also a highlight was a service of blessing for church planters and prospective planters.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

A prayer circle during closing worship at the church planting conference
A Bible study presentation on the book of Revelation, as background for the intercultural ministries theme scripture text Rev. 7:9, was given by Dan Ulrich, Bethany Seminary’s Wieand Professor of New Testament Studies. His review of the book laid bare much of the symbolism of the Lamb and the Tree of Life that closes the Bible on a note of hope for all nations and peoples.

Annual Conference moderator Nancy Sollenberger Heishman gave the message for the opening worship. A panel of three spoke for the closing worship: Congregational Life Ministries executive Jonathan Shively, former Annual Conference moderator and Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren pastor Belita Mitchell, and Joel Pena, pastor of Alpha and Omega Church of the Brethren in Lancaster, Pa.

Communion was part of the opening worship, and the sharing of prayers was part of closing worship. At the end of the last worship service of the conference, participants each wrote down a prayer request on a card. The cards were then handed out to other participants to take home and pray over in coming days.

For more about the church planting movement in the Church of the Brethren, and the work of the New Church Development Advisory Committee, go to www.brethren.org/churchplanting . The movement has made a commitment to cultivate networks and infrastructure to support 250 new church starts by 2019.

Source: 5/20/2014 Newsline

Bethany Seminary celebrates commencement

By Jenny Williams

On Saturday, May 10, Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., honored its newest graduates at the 2014 commencement ceremony. The eight members of the class received master of divinity degrees in Nicarry Chapel, surrounded by uplifting music, the blessing of faculty and staff, and the support of family and friends.

The following received master of divinity degrees:
Claire Flowers-Waggener of Albany, Ind.
Daniel Lee Fullen of Tipp City, Ohio
James Richard Grossnickle-Batterton of Iowa City, Iowa
Audrey N. Hollenberg-Duffey of Richmond, Ind.
Timothy L. Hollenberg-Duffey of Richmond, Ind.
Todd Peterson of Loveland, Ohio
Ronda K. Scammahorn of Arcanum, Ohio
Anita Hooley Yoder of Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Guest speaker Chris Bowman, pastor of Oakton Church of the Brethren in Vienna, Va., addressed the audience with “God Ordained a Worm,” words of wisdom based on the fourth chapter of Jonah. Against the backdrop of the prophet Jonah's story, Bowman posed a question about being called: “Toward what end is the one who formed you now repurposing you?” Jonah’s prophetic path is full of twists as he resists his call, then despairs when the city of Ninevah responds to his message of repentance.

“When God relents and does not destroy that evil city of Nineveh, the real work begins. The city is not burning, but the preacher is. Jonah is burning with wrath because of God’s compassion.... And right about here we begin to realize that maybe God did not send Jonah to Nineveh to save Nineveh. God ordained Jonah to save Jonah. I begin to wonder if our callings might also be invitations to God’s life-changing saving grace in our own lives.” Bowman also noted that just as “each of the things ordained, appointed, or called in this story was called toward their nature--not against it,” so are we.

A Bethany graduate, Bowman also holds a doctorate from San Francisco Seminary. He has previously pastored congregations in Pennsylvania and Illinois and has served the denomination as chair of the former General Board and as Annual Conference moderator. The church also selected him to deliver the message for the 2004 Christmas Eve service broadcast on CBS and to give the sermon for the denomination’s 300th anniversary celebration in 2008. Bowman’s chapter, “Prophetic Rhetoric and Preaching,” appears in “The Witness of the Hebrew Bible for a New Testament Church,” and he is collaborating with his father, Robert Bowman, on the upcoming People of the Covenant Bible study book, “Kings and Their Prophets.”

Bethany president Jeff Carter offered words of appreciation for the work of the seminary and its students, noting accomplishments by the faculty: writings published, professional papers presented to national and international audiences, lectures given, and the naming of two faculty to endowed chairs. Carter also highlighted current efforts in student recruitment and housing, classroom technology for greater distance participation, and the successful Reimagining Ministries campaign. “In all things we return to the vision of our founders, that Bethany Theological Seminary is about spiritual empowerment, sound scholarship, and ministerial training rooted in practical experience, for the glory of God and our neighbor’s good.”

An afternoon worship service in Nicarry Chapel, open to the public, was planned and led by the graduates. The chosen hymns and scripture centered on the theme of receiving new, God-given names. Referencing stories of biblical figures such as Jacob and Peter, five of the class members offered reflections on the meaning of names, blessings, and life transitions. Faculty led a traditional ritual of sending, this year by symbolically washing the hands of the graduates in preparation for their ministry to others.

Several members of the class are currently pastoring or have been called to pastor a congregation. Other potential paths include pastoral ministry, campus ministry, and further study. Webcasts of the ceremony and the worship service can be viewed at www.bethanyseminary.edu/webcasts .

-- Jenny Williams is director of Communications and Alumni/ae Relations for Bethany Theological Seminary. Photos courtesy of Chagares Photography.

Source: 5/20/2014 Newsline

Nominations sought for Open Roof Awards

The deadline is drawing near for nominations for the 2014 Open Roof Awards, presented annually to a congregation or district in the Church of the Brethren that has made great strides in becoming accessible to people with disabilities and offering opportunities for them to serve.

The scripture theme for the Open Roof Awards comes from Mark 2:3-4: “Then some people came, bringing to Jesus a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him.”

“Do you know of a Church of the Brethren congregation or district that has done something extraordinary to serve--or be served by--those with disabilities?” asks the call for nominations from Donna Kline, director of Deacon Ministries. “Tell us about it, even if it’s your own!”

The Open Roof Award is sponsored by Congregational Life Ministries. Visit www.brethren.org/openroof for the form to nominate this year’s recipient. The printed deadline is June 1; nominations will be accepted through June 9. For more information or questions contact Donna Kline, Director of Deacon Ministries, dkline@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 306.

Source: 5/20/2014 Newsline

Committee studying ecumenism seeks responses to survey

By Nancy Miner

The Annual Conference study committee on a Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century is conducting a survey of the delegates of Annual Conference 2013, Young Adult Conference participants, those involved in district ministry, and Mission and Ministry Board members as it prepares to write a Church of the Brethren vision paper on ecumenism.

The long-standing Committee on Interchurch Relations (CIR) was discontinued by Annual Conference action in 2012, and the Mission and Ministry Board and denominational Leadership Team were directed to appoint a study committee to write the vision paper. The committee, made up of Tim Speicher (chair), Liz Bidgood Enders, Wanda Haynes, Jennifer Hosler, David Shumate, Larry Ulrich, and general secretary Stan Noffsinger, began its work in June 2013.

Larry Ulrich served on the committee until the time of his death in Dec. 2013. “Larry brought to our committee a lifetime of participation in not only the ecumenical movement of the Church of the Brethren, but also the interfaith engagement of the church in the city of Chicago,” said general secretary Stan Noffsinger. “He had developed an acute expertise in the importance of interfaith communication and relationships, which the committee will sorely miss.”

The online survey, distributed via e-mail on May 15, invites survey participants to consider the topic of Christian and interfaith relationships from an individual perspective, from a congregation’s perspective, and from the perspective of the church at large. Insight garnered from the survey will inform the committee’s work in writing the paper, which it plans to present at the 2015 Annual Conference.

In addition to the survey, two insight sessions will be held during this year’s Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio, to provide the opportunity for open conversation about the blessings and challenges of ecumenical connections. Members of the study committee will lead the sessions, which will take place at 9 p.m. on Friday, July 4, and 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 5.

See www.brethren.org/ac/2014/documents/business-items/2104-ub4-a-vision-of-ecumenism.pdf for the committee’s report to the 2014 Annual Conference.

-- Nancy Miner is office manager for the Office of the General Secretary of the Church of the Brethren.

Source: 5/20/2014 Newsline

Attack by Boko Haram kills Nigerian Brethren, EYN president requests continued prayer

Samuel Dali, president of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria or EYN), sent news today by e-mail of a new attack by Boko Haram in which several EYN members were killed. Boko Haram is an extremist sect in northern Nigeria violently seeking a “pure” Islamic state, and is responsible for last month’s abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls from a school in Chibok, Nigeria.
Photo by Nathan and Jennifer Hosler

Samuel Dali (at right), president of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), with his wife Rebecca S. Dali.
In breaking news from Nigeria, twin bombings in the business district of Jos, a city in central Nigeria, have killed at least 118 people and wounded at least 45. If carried out by Boko Haram, this bombing would rank among the deadliest of its five-year insurrection. Find a BBC article at www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27493940# .

Attack on Shawa village kills five Brethren

Dali shared news from Shawa village that “the village was attacked by Boko Haram last night and nine people were killed. Five of the nine people are members of EYN. Also, 49 houses belonging to our members have been burnt down and our local church has been burnt down completely.

“Please, continue to pray for EYN and Nigeria,” he wrote in his e-mail to Church of the Brethren denominational staff in the US.

Today also happens to be Dr. Dali’s birthday, he added with an ironic note.

Rebecca Dali, wife of EYN president Samuel Dali, also sent an e-mail yesterday asking for continued prayers and support. Her nonprofit organization CCEPI (Center for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives) has focused on work with women and children affected by the violence, orphans, and refugees who have been fleeing to neighboring countries and those displaced within Nigeria.

“We need your prayers,” she wrote, “now there is virtually no security in Borno State, especially outside Maiduguri. Many have fled to Cameroon. In refugee camps in Cameroon and [for] some who are displaced there was no food, medical, or other kinds of help. The government, even when warned, does not stop the violence. People are suffering.”

Samuel Dali was interviewed by the BBC World Service on May 14, when he spoke with Newsday's Lawrence Pollard. He talked about the feelings of the parents of the missing Chibok schoolgirls, and the fact that those families have received no help from the Nigerian government, and about suspicions that Boko Haram may have infiltrated the Nigerian army and other government bodies. Listen to the audio interview at https://soundcloud.com/#bbc-world-service/pastor-says-nigerian-government-failing-families-of-kidnapped-schoolgirls.

To give to the EYN Compassion Fund, which provides aid to Nigerian Brethren affected by the violence, go to www.brethren.org/eyncompassion.

Source: 5/20/2014 Newsline

EYN church leaders meet with 58 Chibok schoolgirls’ parents

By Zakariya Musa
The president of EYN (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, the Church of the Brethren Nigeria) Samuel D. Dali, met with parents of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted on April 14. EYN, a world known peace church, operates largely in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe States in Nigeria, where a state of emergency has been in place for over a year.

Chibok, a Christian dominated area, and the only of the 27 Local Governments in Borno State that pays CRK teachers salary, is a place where the Church of the Brethren Mission station was opened by Ira S. Petre in 1931.

The 58 parents who met the denominational leader are just some of the parents of the 234 missing schoolgirls. Evangelist Matthew Owojaiya of the Old Time Revival Hour Church in Kaduna has published a list of 180 girls abducted from the Secondary School in Chibok, showing 165 to be Christian girls and 15 to be Muslim girls.

“I abducted your girls,” a man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubbakar Shekau said in a video first obtained by Agence France-Presse. “There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women,” he continued, according to a CNN translation from the local Hausa language.

As we got to the church in Chibok, an EYN district official who welcomed the president’s team seated the parent, those whose houses were burnt, as well as the pastors present in three separate rows. “We are just here to cry with you,” said EYN general secretary Jinatu Wamdeo, who introduce the entourage to the gathering.

EYN’s president speaks with the parents

“God knows where they (the girls) are, so we hope that one day they will be freed,” said EYN president Samuel Dali. “The entire world is crying with us on this pain. This might be a reason to end this situation. We have hope because God is with them.

“Be sure that evil doers will not see a good end. This is not our will but God’s own judgment. Let’s continue persevering in our patience, and stand firm on our faith in God. You know that we have no government, because if you cry [out] they will beat you back, so only God will save us in this country,” Dali continued.

“Today when we send out workers as a church, it’s like we are sending them to the grave. Sometime I ask myself why I came in this time, but God knows. May God help you and strengthen your faith.”

One of the parents thanked the leaders of the church on their behalf. He said they are sure that we have no government because none of the Senators, House of Representatives, or chairmen came to greet the parents like this, despite their security. You are here with no single security personnel behind you but God is with you [he told the church leaders]. He also called on church members to keep obeying their pastors, of whom he said: “They are standing by us since these occurrences.”

Parents remember the day of the abduction

[Talking about the day of the abduction] the parents said that there were signals that the girls should be sent home [from the school] but some staff took it as speculation and [decided] the girls should stay at their hostel. According to one parent who doesn’t want his name mentioned, on their arrival the sect seized a loaded truck at a market place and offloaded it before driving to the secondary school, where they asked the girls many questions before parading them to the truck, saying that they wanted to protect them from a Boko Haram attack.

One of the girls, aged 15, who escaped from the kidnappers, said, “We stopped at one place to eat but I refused to eat. They told us that we’ll proceed to Sambisa the following morning. They told us that they are taking us there to teach us Qur’an. We are three who escaped at [that] time.”

Within the week, reports from Gwoza areas in Borno State said the attackers took action at their will, killed a church secretary and a village head at Zamga, a village head at Jubrilli, a pastor’s son at Arboko, and a church member at Ashigashiya, where they went house-to-house fetching properties of those who ran away for safety. An EYN pastor abducted three weeks ago is still missing while another three youths from the area were killed. The [Boko Haram] group claimed responsibility for attacks on many public buildings, churches, mosques, Muslims and non-Muslims, leaders and followers.

In many areas people no longer sleep in their houses. “We sleep in bush,” they said.

To the government [the parents said]: “They say they are trying to save the 234 girls but we don’t know what is going on. We are confused.”

The federal government has opened up to receive international help to rescue the nearly 300 Chibok and Warabe girls.

Alhaji Kabiru Turaki, chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of the Security Challenges in the North, in July 2013 defended the ceasefire agreement signed with Boko Haram, saying the federal government interacted with authentic members of the Islamic militia.

The sect said it lost confidence in the government, and therefore abandoned the dialogue, which some people see as the right channel to end the war. The sect also demands the release of its detained members.

Photo courtesy of Zakariya Musa

EYN president Samuel Dali presents donations to officials of the five affected District Church Councils (Chibok, Balgi, Mbalala, Kautikari, and Askira).
EYN leaders bring relief funds

The EYN president presented some tokens of money to the 58 parents to assist them to return to their homes, and handed over the sum of N30,000.00 to the five District Church Council (DCC) officials for the affected members at the various districts. The five DCCs--Chibok, Mbalala, Balgi, Kautikari, and Askira--also suffered from the insurgents’ activities since 2009.

The former secretary of the EYN Ministers Council and chairman of the EYN Relief Committee, Amos Duwala, encouraged that “if there is a beginning there must be also an end to every situation.”

Special prayers were offered for peace in the country, for the release of the abducted, for comfort to the parents, for provision to the displaced, condolence to those who lost their relatives, for the government to be just, and for the insurgents to change their mind.

-- Zakariya Musa is secretary of “Sabon Haske,” a publication of EYN.

Source: 5/20/2014 Newsline

Brethren and ecumenical partners continue support for Nigeria and the abducted girls

A round up of news tidbits from this past week, demonstrating a variety of ways in which Brethren congregations and districts have been offering prayer and support for Nigerian Brethren and the abducted schoolgirls. Also below: statements of support from ecumenical partners, as well as media interviews and stories with links to find them online:
  • Short video interviews with Carl and Roxane Hill, who returned from Nigeria last Wednesday, are available at www.brethren.org/partners/nigeria/news.html . The Hills have completed their term of service as Church of the Brethren mission workers and teachers at Kulp Bible College, a school of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). They flew back to the US in time for the church planting conference in Richmond, Ind., last week where Brethren videographer David Sollenberger taped their responses to five quick questions about their work and the current situation in Nigeria. The Hills are interested in becoming church planters in the United States, as their next mission venture. In the series of short video clips they answer these questions: How is the EYN Compassion fund helping? What is EYN's response to the violence? Does it seem like EYN is being targeted? What is inspiring about EYN's response to the violence? What did EYN leadership do to assure the safety of Carl and Roxane? Newsline will feature an interview with the Hills in next week’s issue.
  • “Brethren rally to support kidnapped Nigerian girls” is the title of a “Mennonite World Review” interview with Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger on May 19. The interview by Tim Huber gives an overview of how Brethren in the US have responded to the abduction of the schoolgirls from Chibok, and how the American Brethren are supporting the Nigerian Brethren during this time of crisis. Noffsinger speaks about the faith of the Nigerian church, what Brethren can do through prayer,  and the giving to relief efforts for refugees fleeing the violence in Nigeria. find the interview at http://mennoworld.org/2014/05/19/brethren-rally-to-support-kidnapped-nigerian-girls .
  • Ephrata (Pa.) Church of the Brethren designated its entire Sunday morning offering on Mother's Day, May 11, to the EYN Compassion Fund. Senior pastor Galen Hackman reported in an e-mail to denominational staff that the offering totaled over $18,000, with more expected to be received over the following week. The congregation also collected notes of encouragement to send to EYN.
  • Gerald and Lois Neher who served in Chibok, Nigeria, with the Church of the Brethren Mission in the 1950s, were interviewed by their local newspaper, the McPherson (Kan.) Sentinel. The couple, who are in their 80s, also have been interviewed by the BBC and the Daily  Beast. The interview by Sentinel staff writer Carla Barber was posted May. 13, and includes a large photo of the couple. “The Nehers not only are familiar with the Chibok; they wrote the book on them,” the interview notes. “We probably knew these girls’ grandparents and great-grandparents,” Gerald told the reporter. The Nehers became mission workers in Nigeria after attending McPherson College, and after Gerald earned a master’s degree in extension services from Cornell University. The newspaper reports that they spent four years working in Chibok, and a total of 14 years in Nigeria, from 1954-68. Read the full interview at www.mcphersonsentinel.com/article/20140513/News/140519814#ixzz32CIvwtph.
  • "Bring Back Our Girls: A Night of Compassion and Action" is planned for May 27, 7-8:30 p.m., in Littleton, Colo., sponsored by Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren and friends. The event is a Nigeria fundraiser, and will include a video update, food, and a silent auction. All money raised will go to the EYN Compassion Fund to help victims of Boko Haram violence, said an announcement from the church. For more information or to donate money or items for the auction, contact Sarah Leatherman Young at 720-530-7299 or Gail Erisman Valeta at 720-290-7044.
  • Southern Ohio District has shared a prayer request from Nigeria originally received by Larry Heisey of the Brethren Heritage Center in Brookeville, Ohio. The prayer request was sent by one of the Nigerian Brethren group who attended the Brethren World Assembly last year at the Brethren Heritage Center. She wrote, in part: “Dear Brother Larry, thank you very much for your concern for us. It’s really a thing of joy when we hear encouraging words from brethren. It’s really a thing of joy to know that brethren all over the world are with us at this trying time. My brother, we really need your prayers. We know that the Lord knows why this thing is happening, but we the human beings cannot.... Many of our people are getting discouraged but the word of God is waxing strong. The mystery of the kidnap of the Chibok school girls remain perplexing to us. Chibok is about 30 kilometers from my home village, we all feel the pains because relations are there and friends also. Many of our villages have been rampaged, churches burnt, homes destroyed and people fled their villages. Many of the brethren are in refugee camps.... Continue in prayer with us until the insurgents stop terrorizing children of God.”
  • In more news from Southern Ohio District, the Lower Miami congregation is inviting the district to a prayer vigil for Nigeria on May 21, at 7 p.m. “You are all welcome to come to this service or to join in prayer at this hour wherever you may be,” the district e-mail announced.
  • Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren held a Wednesday evening candle lighting service in its Peace/Memory Garden last week, after a meal and Bible study, to gather to pray for the Nigerian girl assigned to their congregation for prayer.
  • Week of Compassion--the relief, refugee, and development mission fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the US and Canada--has given $2,000 to the EYN Compassion Fund. The gift is designated for use by the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria or EYN) to support the families of the girls abducted from the school in Chibok. Week of Compassion also posted a statement on its website on May 15 titled, “‘Our Girls’ and Our Churches: Putting Compassion into Action; Partnering to #Bringbackourgirls.” The statement said, in part, “Many of the 200 girls were members of the Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN), an independent Nigerian denomination with roots in the Church of the Brethren, a longtime ecumenical partner of Week of Compassion and fellow member of Church World Service. As part of our commitment to respond to human need all over the world and to work ecumenically, Week of Compassion has responded through the EYN Compassion Fund.... Our ecumenical commitment makes a real difference all over the world. Your generosity-no matter the season-makes an impact in even the most dire of situations.” Read the full statement at www.weekofcompassion.org/our-impact .
  • A “Do Justice” blog of the Christian Reformed Church’s Center for Public Dialogue and Office of Social Justice has posted a reflection on “The Boko Haram Kidnappings' CRC Connection,” written by Ron Geerlings, Christian Reformed World Missions’ West Africa Regional Director since 1987, and Peter Vander Meulen, World Renew’s Regional Director for West Africa 1988-95. The post notes the authors’ personal connections with the northeast of Nigeria, and the connections with EYN and the Church of the Brethren. “As the facts came in, the connections strengthened,” the post notes, in part. “The girls--who are mostly Christian--are largely from families who are members of the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa Nigeria (EYN), a Nigerian denomination that grew out of Church of the Brethren mission work. EYN is a thriving, growing church known for its peaceful, simple, and productive approach to life. The Christian Reformed Church has partnered and invested in this church and in this remote spot in Nigeria. We supported effective, Nigerian-led programs in Agriculture and HIV-AIDS.” The authors go on to provide an analysis of the situation of Nigeria that may be helpful to Brethren readers in the US. “We noted that this particular incident is not really a strange anomaly,” they write, in part. “It is rather the result of a host of negative factors that, taken together, have for years dragged down the people of a country that is among the wealthiest and best educated in Africa.... Nigeria had its share of development, political, and justice issues before Boko Haram came on the scene. And given their complexity, these issues will remain after the threat of Boko Haram has been eliminated.” Read the full reflection at http://dojustice.crcna.org/article/boko-haram-kidnappings-crc-connection#.U3fROsqpNZk.facebook.
  • A post on the Mennonite Church USA Facebook page has requested prayer for the girls abducted from Chibok and their families, as part of “our global Anabaptist family.” The post, which has been widely shared, read: “Please pray for the 230 Nigerian girls who disappeared on April 14. ‘Most of the affected families are part of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria,’ a part of our global Anabaptist family.” The Mennonite Church USA also shared one of the Church of the Brethren news articles about Nigeria.
Source: 5/20/2014 Newsline

Ten Bible studies available to help youth prepare for NYC 2014

By Tim Heishman
The National Youth Conference (NYC) Office has released 10 Bible studies for youth groups to use as they prepare to attend the July 19-24 conference. Several of the Bible studies were written by NYC speakers, using the scripture text they will preach on during the week of NYC.

The Bible studies are intended to help youth and advisors familiarize themselves with the NYC theme and scriptures before the conference, and to help them prepare spiritually for the experience. Most of the Bible studies follow a typical format of a brief reflection followed by questions for individual or group discussion. The Bible studies are available at www.brethren.org/yya/nyc/theme.html .

In addition to Bible studies, the NYC Office has complied several pages of information and resources intended to help youth groups prepare for NYC physically, emotionally, and spiritually. An additional way for the entire congregation to be involved in the preparation for NYC is by participating in NYC Prayer Day on Sunday, June 22. For Prayer Day resources and all other preparation materials, visit www.brethren.org/yya/nyc/prepare.html .

-- Tim Heishman is one of the three coordinators for National Youth Conference 2014, along with Katie Cummings and Sarah Neher.

Source: 5/20/2014 Newsline

One man’s journey to all 44 churches in Southern Pennsylvania District

By Scott Nedrow
While sitting at our District Conference in 2011, I turned to my pastor and whispered that I suddenly felt a need to visit all 44 congregations in our district. His look of question probably matched my confused feeling, for even as the words left my mouth I had no idea why I had the need to do this. I wasn’t sure I had the time, or the energy, to carry it through. Up to this point, I had only visited a few other congregations outside of Mechanicsburg, which I have been part of since birth. All I knew for sure was that I was being nudged for some unknown reason to take this venture.

Over the next few weeks and months, that nudging became a forceful push. With God’s grace, blessings, and guidance, and the encouragement and support from my pastor and many others, I made my first visit to Huntsdale in November 2011 and concluded this journey with my 44th visit to Farmer’s Grove in June 2013. During this almost two-year journey I traveled a few thousand miles, ate dozens of Sheetz hotdogs for Sunday lunch, took more than 2,200 pictures, and spoke with hundreds of brothers and sisters from around the district.

With each and every visit, blessings arrived in ways that I could not have begun to imagine when the idea (I believe calling) was first laid upon me. With no goal or agenda from start to finish, I allowed God to take control. I always like to be in control so to just let go was something entirely new for me, but it didn’t take long to realize that He knew exactly what He was doing. Oh how wonderful it felt to sit back and allow His blessings and bounty to unfold. In doing so, the journey for me has been nothing short of riveting and revealing--and I would do it all over again.

The highlights and blessings are too numerous to list, but I want to share a few examples of what I encountered and learned along the way.

I was amazed at how widespread the congregations are as far as distance. For example, Hanover to Sugar Valley is approximately 135 miles apart, or roughly three hours driving time.

I soon realized how rural many of the locations are, some even having my GPS scratch its electronic head.

Although we are in the same district and we all have Brethren ties and values, I learned quickly that we are also very diverse. Some worship with traditional services while others have praise services or a combination of both. Our members dress in plain and contemporary clothing. Many congregations humbly pray on their knees, while others just humbly bow their heads. We sing to the accompaniment of drums and guitars, organs and uprights, and a capella. There are US flags in the front of some of our sanctuaries, while many others do not have flags.

I found that we are a very welcoming people. We welcome visitors and each other as members in a variety of different ways, but always with similar Christian attitudes and intentions. There were some congregations; however, that seemed to go the extra mile with their sincerity and their comforting way of making me feel right at home from the moment I arrived. A few congregations have figured out how to ensure that no visitor is lost in the Sunday rush, and that visitors are acknowledged and given the opportunity to learn more about the congregation if they so desire.

While some congregations do not choose to use a lot of signs, I did become aware of how important signs can be. I saw whimsical eye-catching outdoor signs that “Welcome Everyone,” and I saw bright and cheery indoor signs that directed newcomers easily to their destinations. On the other side, however, there were outdoor signs in need of repair or hidden by bushes and hard for motorists to see. I did not set out on these visits giving signs any thought, but as time went by, God seemed to make this an important focus.

Many congregations use overheads and electronics in their services, while others do not. While the debate continues over the value of using overheads, I personally enjoyed all of our Brethren services. I did have a closed mind on this issue, but now I understand the value and rational from both positions. I respect and appreciate the opinions of all.

With so many of our congregations struggling with attendance, it was refreshing to see several congregations growing, with many new families and young families with children becoming part of the church. Also, it was uplifting to see one congregation have more than 80 percent of worshipers attend Sunday school!

I feel I have a better appreciation of our variance in understanding of what it means to be a part of the church. I am hoping this knowledge will benefit me as I have been called to serve on the District Board and on the Church Development and Revitalization Commission.

As an open invitation, if you or your congregation would like to know more about what I have learned on the journey, please contact me at 717-796-6035 or jerseyshoreblues@yahoo.com . It has been quite a journey for me as a lay person, and I would love to share my experience with those interested in hearing more.

-- Scott Nedrow is a member of Mechanicsburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. This reflection was published in March in the Southern Pennsylvania District newsletter.

Source: 5/20/2014 Newsline

Brethren bits

  • Remembrance: Marvin Earl Blough, 86, a former Church of the Brethren mission worker in Nigeria, passed away on March 7. He was born July 27, 1927, near Windom, Kan., to Ona and Earl Blough. The failure of a wheat crop led to the family's relocation to Idaho in 1929. Blough grew up in Nampa, Idaho, and attended McPherson (Kan.) College where he graduated in 1948. On June 5, 1948, he married Dorris Murdock. Blough attended medical school at Kansas University and on his graduation from medical school, moved to Nigeria where he ran a hospital in the village of Garkida, which at the time was the headquarters of the Church of the Brethren Mission. His obituary notes that he was the only physician for the 78-bed hospital, working without modern plumbing or electricity. After three years he and his family returned to Wichita, Kan., where he completed a year of residency in internal medicine. After he worked for some time in Nampa, specializing in internal medicine, he returned to Nigeria in 1960 for another four years of service in Garkida. “When they left Garkida in 1964, Marvin and his family were honored in a village ceremony attended by hundreds of people from the surrounding area,” said his obituary in the “Idaho Press Tribune.” Upon returning to the US, Blough worked in Wichita, Kan., and in Nampa, where he joined the Salzer Medical Group in 1966. The group formed the first hospice in Idaho in 1978, where Blough became the medical director. He retired from the Salzer Medical Clinic after 37 years. In 1982, he and Dorris divorced. He later married Mary Glover Lambert. In 1990, he and Mary made the first of nine trips to Puerto Rico to serve in the Church of the Brethren-founded hospital in CastaƱer. He is survived by his wife Mary; children Susan (Larry Standley), Kim, Lee (Linda), and Lynn (Amy Swingen); step-children John (Marsha) Lambert, Mary Kay (Anne) Lambert, and David Lambert; grandchildren and step-grandchildren. A service of celebration of his life was held at the Nampa Civic Center on March 30. Memorial contributions are received to Doctors Without Borders. Find the full obituary as published by the “Idaho Press Tribune” at www.legacy.com/obituaries/idahopress/obituary.aspx?pid=170303728 .
Photo courtesy of the Brethren Church in Ankleshwar

Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer is currently in India to visit with the Church of the Brethren there and the Church of North India. He is shown here at the Brethren Church in Ankleshwar. He also has attended the annual meeting of the India Brethren.
  • The Church of the Brethren Workcamp office has announced the assistant coordinators for the 2015 season: Hannah Shultz and Theresa Ford. Ford has spent the last year serving in Brethren Volunteer Service in Waco, Texas, and comes originally from Atlantic Northeast District. Shultz is graduating from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., this month with a degree in Religious Studies and is originally from the Baltimore, Md., area. They will begin their work in planning the 2015 workcamp season in August.
  • Washington (D.C.) City Church of the Brethren is seeking applicants for a food ministries coordinator position to direct the Brethren Nutrition Program, a lunch program for those homeless and in need on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Some experience with social work, social justice ministries, or working with marginalized people is required. The position begins July 1 and is a full-time 40-hour stipend position with benefits and housing at Brethren House, a community house on Capitol Hill. View the full position description at http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1110837621104-303/JobDescriptionWashingtonCityCoB.pdf . To apply, send a cover letter and resume to bnpposition@gmail.com .
  • The Church of the Brethren Workcamp Ministry is offering commissioning resources to those congregations that have youth or young adults attending workcamps this summer. Congregations are encouraged to recognize and affirm these youth, young adults, and advisors as they prepare to leave for their workcamp through a commissioning service. Each congregation should receive a copy of the resources in the mail, but they are also available on the Workcamp Ministry web page at www.brethren.org/workcamps .
  • The president of the Dominican Republic has initiated legislation that would allow people of Haitian descent born in the DR to receive the rights afforded to citizens of the country through documentation or an offer of permanent residency. Last year the high court in the DR ruled that children born in the DR to undocumented immigrants are not automatically entitled to citizenship. The new legislation has passed the lower house of parliament but still needs to clear the Senate. If adopted, it will favorably affect Dominican Brethren who are of Haitian background. Pastor Onelys Rivas reported to Global Food Crisis manager Jeff Boshart that he and Jay Wittmeyer, executive of the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service, last week met to discuss the bill with the head of CWS partner Servicio Social de Iglesias Dominicanas. The "regularization" for Dominicans of Haitian descent will not be free of charge, however, Rivas reported. Speaking for the Junta or leadership of the Church of the Brethren in the DR, Rivas is hoping to help Haitian Dominican Brethren understand the process and become registered under the new law. He plans to soon meet with the leaders of the Haitian Dominican Brethren churches to make a plan of action. Once the bill is adopted it will take some time to learn the proper procedures for registering, and will require a major mobilization of resources for the Dominican government as many thousands of people will be affected. Boshart recommends this Reuters report on the bill as offering helpful analysis: http://news.yahoo.com/proposed-dominican-republic-immigration-law-gets-mixed-reaction-214307094.html;_ylt=AwrBEiGpCHpTrSYAPhXQtDMD .
  • The 2014 Orientation for students taking part in the programs of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership will be held July 31-Aug. 3 on the campus of Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond Ind. The registration deadline is June 16. The orientation is for students interested in the Training in Ministry (TRIM) or the Education for Shared Ministry (EFSM) programs. To enter either program, students must have the support of their district. After a student is fully registered for the 2014 Orientation with paperwork completed and registration fee received, he or she will receive individual consultations with the coordinator of TRIM and EFSM or the executive director of the Brethren Academy to begin their ministry training program before attending orientation. For additional information, contact Carrie Eikler (TRIM) at eikleca@bethanyseminary.edu or Julie Hostetter (EFSM)at hosteju@bethanyseminary.edu .
Photo courtesy of Going to the Garden
Bees are raised at Capstone Community Gardens and Orchard in New Orleans, with help from a Going to the Garden grant.
  • “This is what the Church of the Brethren Going to the Garden grant and the Southern Plains and Roanoke Church of the Brethren assistance helps us do! Such a blessing!” writes David Young from New Orleans, La., where the Capstone community garden has benefited from church support. The garden is one of several receiving $1,000 grants through the Going to the Garden project of the Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) and the denomination’s Office of Public Witness. An interview about the Capstone garden, titled, “Volunteer grows food for the hungry on formerly blighted Ninth Ward lots,” was published by “The Times-Picayune” on May 13 at www.nola.com/food/index.ssf/2014/05/volunteer_gardens_on_formerly.html .
  • Harrisonburg (Va.) First Church of the Brethren holds its annual Community Fun Fair on Saturday, May 24, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. at the church at 315 S. Dogwood Dr. “The day includes a yard sale, pancake breakfast, demonstrations by the Harrisonburg Fire Department, kids' fingerprinting by the Rockingham Country Sheriff's Department, pork barbecue lunch, great food, inflatable rides, kids' games, and much more,” reports the Shenandoah District newsletter.
  • Hagerstown (Md.) Church of the Brethren and Hagerstown Choral Arts are offering a concert on Sunday, May 31, at 7 p.m. titled "I Hear America Singing." The event, described by a flyer as "an evening of a range of American style music...not to be confused with a patriotic concert, but rather a mixture of energizing and soothing American songs," will also receive a free-will offering for the choral arts group as well as the church that hosts their rehearsals. The group is in its 21st season of bringing choral music to the community.
  • Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren hosts a concert by "The Westminster Ringers" on Friday, June 6, at 7 p.m. The Maryland handbell ensemble includes 16 ringers playing one of the largest collections of handbell instruments in the mid-Atlantic region, directed by Larry Henning. The public is invited. A love offering will be received.
  • Shenandoah District has issued an update on outcomes from its recent disaster auction. “Beautiful Weather! Wonderful Results!” the update began. The event supports Brethren Disaster Ministries. “Blessed with gorgeous weather, the 2014 Shenandoah District Disaster Ministries Auction successfully celebrated its 22nd year this weekend.” Among outcomes: 1,023 people enjoyed an oyster/ham/chicken dinner; 280 diners had an omelet breakfast and 152 chose pancakes for breakfast; a plate lunch was served to 198 people; preliminary accounting showed gross receipts of $199,635. “The livestock auction alone brought in $20,445.50,” the report said. Figures are preliminary because “some expenses are yet to be paid, and some income is yet to be received.”
  • Illinois and Wisconsin District is calling for volunteers to help serve in the city of Gifford, Ill., which is rebuilding in the aftermath of last year’s tornado that hit the central part of the state. “Gifford is a small town about 15 miles northeast of Champaign,” reports the district disaster coordinator Rick Koch. “Beginning the second week of June they are going to have three homes with foundations poured and they are in need of persons who are skilled in framing up a home. In the weeks ahead there will be a call for plumbers, electricians and others with various construction skills. You are needed whether you can stay one day or one week.” Housing is at a local church on cots, or volunteers can seek housing at a hotel in the nearby city of Rantoul. Lunches will be provided. “Please contact me soon, if you having framing experience and if you are available beginning June 9 or thereabouts,” Koch requests. Contact him at revrick-dutchtown@jcwifi.com or 815-499-3012. 
  • South Central Indiana District is asking every congregation in the district to bring one Church World Service (CWS) clean-up bucket to District Conference this year. The conference will be held at Pleasant Dale Church of the Brethren in Decatur, Ind., on Sept. 13. “We hope every congregation will agree to sharing one bucket of cleanup supplies with someone experiencing the aftermath of a disaster,” said the district newsletter. “Soon you will be receiving an empty five-gallon bucket with a lid (provided by the committee) for your congregation to fill.” The district also is requesting each congregation to bring two pies to be auctioned off during the district conference, with proceeds supporting the Education Ministry Fund and the District Budget, and the district board is encouraging each church to “take the Vital Ministry Journey between now and District Conference.” The Vital Ministry Journey is an initiative of the Church of the Brethren Congregational Life Ministries offering a process that empowers congregations to recapture a dynamic vision and mission. Find out more at www.brethren.org/congregationallife/vmj .
  • West Marva District Student Ministries is offering a "Revive 412 Conference" based on 1 Timothy 4:12. The evening of worship and more takes place June 6 at Danville Church of the Brethren, starting at 6 p.m. All eighth grade, high school, and college students are invited. The event includes worship, the Grains of Sand Praise Band, door prizes, pizza and wings, and more. Contact 301-785-6271 or pastordavid@danvillecob.org .
  • Elizabethtown (Pa.) College's inaugural class of master's degree students graduated on Saturday, May 17, from the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at the Edward R. Murphy Center. Twenty-three graduates received master of business administration (MBA) degrees, said a release from the college. Along with them were 16 bachelor of arts graduates, two bachelor of professional studies graduates, 121 bachelor of science graduates, and 43 who earned associate degrees.
  • The Brethren Mission Fund newsletter is reporting on developments at the New Covenant School in Haiti, where an intergenerational work camp was held from March 12-19 led by Doug and Holly Miller from the Upper Conewago Church of the Brethren in Southern Pennsylvania District. The fund is a ministry of the Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF). The newsletter reports: “Some time ago the New Covenant School in Haiti had an opportunity to purchase some adjoining land for $30,000, on which they wanted to build a church and an orphanage. In 2013 the BMF committee was made aware that enough funds were in place for the school to finally purchase the land. The transaction was finalized just before the intergenerational work camp arrived in Haiti in March.” In addition, the fund and the workcamp contributed to construction of a church house at the school in St. Louis du Nord.
  • Chandler Comer, a high school senior and member of Oakton Church of the Brethren in Vienna, Va., celebrated the world premiere of his work “Dawn of a Nation” when it was performed by the Westfield High School Wind Symphony. The piece of music in four movements represents the early history of the US starting with Jamestown: I. Colonization, II. Confrontation, III. Starvation, IV. Dawn of a Nation. The performance may be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lxXYgQvHec&feature=youtu.be .
Source: 5/20/2014 Newsline


Newsline is produced by the news services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at cobnews@brethren.org. Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Galen Hackman, Elizabeth Harvey, Hannah Heinzekehr, Tim Heishman, Donna Kline, Rick Koch, Fran Massie, Nancy Miner, Zakariya Musa, Scott Nedrow, Stan Noffsinger, Emily Tyler, Jenny Williams, Jay Wittmeyer, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Newsline: May 13, 2014


Children’s Disaster Services begins new collaboration with Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Disciples Home Missions (DHM), Week of Compassion, and the National Benevolent Association of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), are collaborating with the Church of the Brethren Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) to create a new position and initiative that will help meet the needs of children affected by disaster.
A new memorandum of understanding outlines this partnership, providing the framework for a three-year focus on expanding CDS in the Gulf Coast region. Funding provided by the Disciples Home Mission, the National Benevolent Association, and Week of Compassion will develop a new role of a Gulf Coast coordinator. This individual will support the developing and training of a larger network of volunteers in Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana. By engaging the strength and networks of the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ congregations and their significant children’s ministries, the organizers see great potential to better meet the needs of children in this disaster-prone area.

Collaboration enlarges volunteer pool

The partnership includes the training of interested church members and others in the region as CDS volunteers, and for leadership roles supporting volunteer coordination and volunteer training. A primary goal is to train 250 potential volunteers in the next 3 years. After completing a certification process including a criminal record check, these volunteers will provide direct care to children in shelters and service centers after a disaster. The volunteers will be organized into rapid response teams to be the first caregivers responding after a disaster in their region. These volunteers also will be called to serve larger disasters outside of the region.

“The Church of the Brethren is excited for this expanding partnership between the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ and Children's Disaster Services,” said Stanley J. Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren. “For several years our two churches have been in conversations on how to work together as peacemakers. I can think of no better way than for our volunteers to join their gifts and talents in providing a caring service ministry for children affected by disaster. It is a ministry that seeks to reconcile the lives of some of the most vulnerable victims after disaster.” 

“For years, Disciples of Christ members have been volunteering with CDS,” commented Roy Winter, associate executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Global Mission and Service. “At this critical time in the history of CDS, this partnership helps grow the program beyond the capacity of one denomination. Together we can expand this ministry in critical disaster-prone areas to better meet the needs of children and families impacted by disasters.”

“Children have unique needs following disaster,” explained CDS associate director Kathy Fry-Miller. “They feel the chaos and stress of the disaster and need opportunities to express their feelings and their experiences through play. Our dedicated leaders and volunteers are well trained to provide the nurturing adult presence and open-ended play experiences that support the healing process for children. This partnership will allow us to expand our program in areas of high need.”

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) leaders comment

“As Disciples, we are a movement for wholeness, God’s wholeness,” said general minister and president for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Sharon Watkins. “We respond in times of human need and disaster, for we recognize our connectedness to one another. This partnership is truly part of our call to be a faithful witness.”

Brandon Gilvin, associate director of Week of Compassion, said, “As part of our ministry as the Disaster, Development, and Refugee Fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Week of Compassion looks for partners in our denominational and ecumenical families to respond to critical needs in the wake of disasters. The partnership between Disciples Volunteering, DHM's Children and Family Ministries, the National Benevolent Association (NBA), and Children's Disaster Services will provide a new avenue for volunteers to show the love of Christ to children impacted by tornados, floods, and other devastating events.”

“Disciples Volunteering is thrilled to share in this endeavor, partnering with ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Church of the Brethren in response to the needs of children, who are among the most vulnerable following disaster,” reflected Josh Baird, director of Disciples Volunteering at Disciples Home Missions (DHM). “Together, we look forward to expanding and enhancing the critical work of Children's Disaster Services while equipping Disciples to offer their gifts in service to their neighbors.”

Disciples Home Missions’ Olivia Updegrove also reflected on her excitement about the emerging partnership: “The love for children and the need to care for our children at all times and in all situations flows from us as compassionate, faithful people. The Family and Children’s ministry team stands in an ecumenical relationship of both Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ. This relationship opens doors for more people and congregations to be prepared to respond when disaster strikes, and Gods love is not found in a name or title, but in a response to heal the soul.”

The collective endeavor of Disciples ministries and the Church of the Brethren supports the work of creating communities of compassion and care, a primary commitment of the ministries of the National Benevolent Association. Mark D. Anderson, president and CEO, said, “This new collaborative partnership creates some significant connections among Disciples congregations and also Disciples-related health and social service agencies, especially those serving families and children. The partnership provides more opportunities for faithful Disciples to be trained and equipped to respond in times of crisis as well as to resource agencies who provide care to children each day. We are eager to nurture these increased opportunities for compassionate care.”

Regional coordinator to be sought

The regional coordinator role is key for the success of the initiative. This part-time paid position  will network with potential partners, engage congregations, and help facilitate new volunteer workshops, and must live in a Gulf Coast state. Details will be released soon about this new position. For more information about the regional coordinator position, or if you or your congregation would like to know more about Children’s Disaster Services or be trained in rapid response volunteer leadership, contact CDS associate director Kathy Fry-Miller at 410-635-8734 or kfry-miller@brethren.org.

About Children's Disaster Services: Since 1980, CDS has been meeting the needs of children by setting up child care centers in shelters and disaster assistance centers across the nation. Specially trained volunteers arrive with a “Kit of Comfort” with carefully selected toys that promote imaginative play and support the healing process. To learn more, visit www.childrensdisasterservices.org.

About Disciples Home Missions: Disciples Home Missions is committed to equipping disciples for Christ and connecting people to the life-changing love of God. Disciples Home Missions is the enabling and coordinating division of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of the US and Canada in the areas of congregational program and mission in North America. To learn more, visit www.discipleshomemissions.org.

About the National Benevolent Association: Serving as the health and social services general ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the NBA partners with local congregations, regional and general ministries, and a variety of Disciples-related health and social service providers. The NBA incubates new and emerging Disciples-related health and social service ministries, initiates ministry programs designed to establish and grow partnerships around health and social service ministries, and connects direct care providers, emerging social service ministries, local congregations, and mission partners so that all may learn, collaborate, and grow stronger together. To learn more, visit www.ncares.org.

About Week of Compassion: Week of Compassion is the relief, refugee, and development mission fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, seeking to equip and empower disciples to alleviate the suffering of others through disaster response, humanitarian aid, sustainable development, and the promotion of mission opportunities. To learn more, visit www.weekofcompassion.org.

-- This release was provided with help from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Source: 5/13/2014 Newsline

Church of the Brethren chief executives join CWS at gathering to strengthen ties for work together

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

A box of Church World Service (CWS) relief goods bears the words "From: New Windsor, Md., USA"
"CWS is about our members, partners, and a myriad of colleagues working together, as institutions and as coalitions, but even more, as people. That is the vision of our faith and our values."

With those words, Church World Service president and CEO John McCullough, described the relationship between CWS and its member communions as representatives from the various mainline Protestant communions gathered in Chicago to discuss their work together at the humanitarian agency’s first annual members meeting on April 29-30.

Notable among the attendees was the chief executive of the Church of the Brethren, one of the founding member denominations of CWS. Attending with general secretary Stan Noffsinger were Global Mission and Service executive director Jay Wittmeyer and associate executive director Roy Winter, who also is past chair of the CWS Planning Committee.

Representatives from 16 member communions braved bad weather or participated remotely via the Web in discussions and presentations about the agency’s work. A consistent theme: Through CWS, denominations come together to do in partnership what none could do alone.

Throughout the gathering participants also focused on the history and importance of the agency’s ecumenical, interfaith CROP Hunger Walks. The walks help support CWS work, especially grassroots, hunger-fighting development efforts around the world, and hunger-fighting programs in US communities where walks are held.

"We do the CROP Hunger Walk because we are people of faith,” said Ruth Farrell of the Presbyterian Hunger Program. “It is part of who we are as Presbyterians and as Christians. Presbyterians want to be in relationship. They want to be in mission. We walk to fight hunger together with our partners in CWS."

In a remote video address, Erol Kekic, who directs the CWS immigration and refugee program, emphasized the importance of CWS’ ecumenical ties with member communions to the agency’s extensive work resettling refugees. "Refugee resettlement is at its best when it has the support of the local church. When refugees arrive in the US they are beginning a new life and the local church can make all the difference," Kekic said. Local congregations working with CWS assist refugees in adjusting to life in their new communities in a number of ways, from accompanying them to meetings to helping them find employment or enroll children in school.

The involvement of the local church--in all its forms--as part of the CWS family was lifted up by voices in Chicago and from around the globe.

In summing up the gathering, former CWS board chair Bishop Johncy Itty of the Episcopal Church said, “This is a wonderful reminder of how important we are as a faith community working together as CWS. I am appreciative of the opportunity to hear the story of the people who have sacrificed to get us here and to listen and hear what is happening with our member communions.”

-- This release was provided by Church World Service media contacts Lesley Crosson and Matt Hackworth. For more about Church World Service, go to www.cwsglobal.org .

Source: 5/13/2014 Newsline

Nigerian Brethren continue to suffer attacks, Global Mission and Service sends relief funds

The members of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria or EYN) continue to suffer attacks from the extremist group Boko Haram. EYN president Samuel Dante Dali reported by e-mail yesterday that another attack has destroyed homes, and family members of a church evangelist have been kidnapped.

Two grants have been given through the Global Mission and Service office of the Church of the Brethren in order to help support immediate relief efforts with survivors and refugees, reports Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service.

“Very sad to inform that the Boko Haram has attacked Dlamankara near Waga in Gwoza Local Government area last night and destroyed many Christian houses mostly belonging to EYN members,” Dali’s e-mail said. “They have also kidnapped a wife of one our evangelists together with her little child. The few army who were there could not control them and so the army had to  run into the bush for their life and left the insurgents to destroy the village.

“Please, continue to pray for EYN and the pastor.”

A grant of $5,000 from the Global Mission and Service budget for Nigeria mission work is being sent to Nigeria to support the immediate relief efforts of CCEPI, the Center for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives. CCEPI is led by Rebecca Dali, wife of EYN president Samuel Dali. She founded the nonprofit in order to provide care for women and children affected by the violence in northeastern Nigeria, orphans, and refugees who have been fleeing to Cameroon and those displaced within Nigeria.

A grant of $10,000 is going to support a water project in a village where refugees are being housed, close to the EYN headquarters and Kulp Bible College. The village has shared the water supply of the Bible college, Wittmeyer said, but access to more water is needed for the number of people displaced by violence who are now living there. Through the Millennium Development Goals, EYN was able to drill a second well for the area, but has not had the ability to get the water out and to the people, Wittmeyer reported. The grant will help the village access the water from the second well. The money for the grant is coming from giving designated for water projects, given through Global Mission and Service, Wittmeyer said.

To help contribute to the relief work of EYN, gifts are being received to the EYN Compassion Fund at https://secure2.convio.net/cob/site/Donation2?3620.donation=form1&df_id=3620.

Source: 5/13/2014 Newsline

Report on CCEPI visit to Chibok on May 6

The following reports on a visit to Chibok, the town in Nigeria from which the schoolgirls were kidnapped, made by Rebecca Dali and the staff of CCEPI. The Center for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives was begun by Dali, wife of President Samuel Dante Dali of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria or EYN). CCEPI has the mission of providing care for women and children affected by the violence in Nigeria, in particular orphans, and refugees who are fleeing to neighboring Cameroon or displaced within Nigeria. The report is presented as received, with no editing, in pdf format at www.brethren.org/partners/nigeria/may-6-report.pdf .



Centre for Caring Empowerment and Peace Initiative (CCEPI) who has been improving the wellbeing of orphans, vulnerable children, widows, displaced people, refugees etc. in many states and the neighboring country (Cameroun).

On the 6th May, 2014 CCEPI was able to show her concern by visiting Chibok people whose girls were abducted by BokkoHarram.

CCEPI carried along with some relief materials (cloths, soap, buckets and cups) for those whose houses/properties were burnt in the incident.


At about 10:00 am, CCEPI team arrived Chibok and met women leader of Chibok. The women were organized in the EYN No. 1 Church Chibok. The women appeared in women fellowship uniform with black tie showing their grievances.

The women leader introduced the CCEPI team and two other women from EYN Headquarters. The CCEPI Executive Director gave them word of encouragement from the Holy Bible, with tears in eyes for she could not withstand their presence.

The other two women also gave words of encouragement and finally the former EYN president greeted them, hence a closing prayer.

Pictures were taken with the women and those whose house/properties were burnt were given some cloths, soap, and cups/bucket. Data were collected, the list of abducted girls.


Again women were organized at EYN No. 2. The CCEPI team after leaving EYN No1 at about 1:00Pm came down to EYN No 2, where all the women appeared in black attire. The CCEPI Executive Director introduced CCEPI team and said out the purpose of visit, that was to show concern of what happened.

CCEPI Executive Director asked some of the women how the incident happen, a woman said in tear that ‘such has never happened it was terrible, we can’t sleep not to talk of dreaming about these girls’ she could not continue.

A man was interviewed and he said that ‘Government is not doing anything about it’ so he urged Federal Government to bring their girls because they are the leaders of tomorrow.

List of the abducted girls was taken.

One of the people interviewed, is a staff of the school, directed CCEPI team to the school, show CCEPI destructions caused by these terrorists along with a girl who escaped.

CCEPI Executive Director asked him how he was able to escape. He said ‘well I was in my quarters and my children when we heard a gun shut; my children were very scared so I ran away with them over the fence and we escaped to the bush. When I come back in the morning, I saw my car/house burnt and all my neighbors’ quarters were set ablaze.

The girl was asked how it happened as CCEPI team and other people were going round the school. The girl said, ‘they came in mass over 50, distributed themselves into groups, some were setting the school ablaze. The ones that met us in the hostel told us not to run, they appeared in military uniform. They said all of us should enter car (many cars, big) in order to rescue us. We entered; they were taking us toward Sambisa forest. I and my friend decided to dump down the car and God so kind, we hide in grass those coming from behind did not see us. That is how we escaped. Some came two day after, but many are still there with them.’

Toward evening as CCEPI was coming back home, she discover that barrack was set ablaze. Said by the Mobile Police met with CCEPI team.

CCEPI now gave them buckets, cups, cloths and soap. According to them, they are also victims, they are not properly armed as those people so all their cloths were burnt.

Finally CCEPI Executive Director encouraged them.

Source: 5/13/2014 Newsline

A round up of responses to Nigeria’s crisis

Painting by Brian Meyer

This painting by artist Brian Meyer of First Church of the Brethren in San Diego, Calif., came out of his concern for the kidnapped girls. He explains that painting this was a way for him to pray on their behalf.
  • Resources that may help church members and congregations consider how to respond to the kidnapping of the girls from Chibok, Nigeria, are posted at www.brethren.org/partners/nigeria/chibok-resources.html . Links take readers to Annual Conference statements on modern-day slavery and child exploitation as well as peacemaking and nonviolence and humanitarian intervention, relevant United Nations statements on the rights of the child and protection of women and children in armed conflict, the World Council of Churches’ call to just peace, and advocacy resources on modern-day slavery and human trafficking.
  • “We Built a School in Boko Haram’s Heartland” is the title of an interview with Gerald and Lois Neher, former Church of the Brethren mission workers in Chibok, Nigeria, now living in Kansas. The interview by Michael Daly was published today by The Daily Beast. “The very opposite of terrorists arrived in Chibok more than a half-century before the world came to know this remote Nigerian village as the place where maniacal members of Boko Haram kidnapped more than 270 girls and burned down their school. While the terrorist group struck in recent days intending only evil, Gerald and Lois Neher of Kansas came to Chibok in 1954 with the purpose of doing as much good as they were able. They helped make it possible for girls to attend school there in the first place,” read the in depth interview, in part. It reviews the Neher’s work in Chibok beginning in 1954, and the Church of the Brethren early mission involvement there. Read it at www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/13/we-built-a-school-in-boko-haram-s-heartland.html .
  • Gerald Neher has published a book about Chibok and its people, “Life Among the Chibok of Nigeria.” The large paperback tome is an extensive record of what Gerald and his wife, Lois, learned about the Chibok during their time as Church of the Brethren mission workers in the 1950s and 1960s. The author “listened to the elders speak about their land, their lineage, their ethos, their farming, religious beliefs, kinship, and much more,” says a description of the book. “He wrote the book so that the Chibok people would have a record of their past and their present as devastating changes have overtaken them.” Copies are available to purchase from Gerald Neher by calling 620-504-6078.
  • WSBT Channel 22 Mishawaka has covered the prayer effort at Nappanee (Ind.) Church of the Brethren on behalf of the schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok, Nigeria, by Boko Haram. “Church members say they hope the United States will help resolve this peacefully without military action,” the report said. Pastor Byrl Shaver was interviewed as well as Carol Waggy, who spent five years in Nigeria, and spent time in the area where these girls were kidnapped. “To have that personal connection made it even more heartbreaking," she said. Find the WSBT coverage at www.wsbt.com/news/local/local-churches-pray-for-nigerian-girls/25942368 .
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Several staff gather in the Nigeria prayer room at the Church of the Brethren General Offices.
  • A prayer room for Nigeria has been established at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., so that denominational staff may join together in the prayer which Nigerian Brethren have requested. In the room as aids to prayer are copies of the Daily Prayer Guide written by Annual Conference moderator Nancy S. Heishman, Bibles, hymnals, prayer cards with the girls’ names, a prayer journal for participants to write down thoughts and prayers. Associate general secretary Mary Jo Flory-Steury created the special prayer space.
  • Church of the Brethren districts also have called their congregations to prayer for Nigeria. In Western Pennsylvania District, district executive Ronald Beachley sent an e-mail to congregations encouraging them to plan prayer vigils on May 11, Mother’s Day, or another suitable day, and announced that he would fast that day as another encouragement to prayer for the kidnapped schoolgirls. The e-mail closed with “Be joyful in hope; patient in affliction; faithful in prayer.”
  • Among the many congregations that have been praying for Nigeria, a number have posted Facebook notes or photos from special events during this past week. Marla Bieber Abe of Carlisle (Pa.) Church of the Brethren posted, “Dear EYN, I want you to know that the Church of the Brethren in Carlisle prayed for the missing girls, their families, and churches this morning in worship. I am sure we were not the only church! God can do wonders!”  At San Diego (Calif.) First Church of the Brethren, Sunday saw the lighting of a candle in support and prayer for the 200-plus young women who were kidnapped--along with a baby dedication and celebration of Mother’s Day. The San Diego Church plans a Prayer Circle for Nigeria on Saturday, May 17, at 6:30 p.m., that will include music, readings, prayers, litanies, and opportunity to share in meditation.
  • “Local prayer vigil held for girls kidnapped in Nigeria” was the title of a piece from Fox News Channel 28 in South Bend, Ind., on May 7, when Church of the Brethren members gathered at the Goshen City Church for a prayer vigil. "We have long and strong ties with the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria and it really does feel like this has hit our family," Madalyn Metzger told the news team. See the video report at www.fox28.com/story/25459278/2014/05/07/local-prayer-vigil-held-for-girls-kidnapped-in-nigeria .
  • Janet Mitchell, a member of Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind., organized a prayer vigil that was reported in an article in the Fort Wayne “Journal Gazette” on May 10. Members of area churches gathered at the Allen County Courthouse Green on Saturday morning to pray for the kidnapped girls. The event was for people of all faiths, and was joined by members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation and the local chapter of the NAACP. “‘Do not be afraid; Our love is stronger than your fear,’ the men and women sang, as the youngest attendee, Maya Koczan-Flory, 3, drew two hearts on the sidewalk for two of the girls who have died,” said the news report. Find it at www.journalgazette.net/article/20140510/LOCAL/140519970 .
  • The United Church of Christ has distributed an action alert titled, “JPANet: Act to end violence against women and children in Nigeria and throughout the world!” The alert read, in part: “Our faith compels us to reach for more holistic and sustained solutions for this and the other incidents like it, which take place with alarming frequency, often without the world’s notice. The grave reality remains that this kidnapping is part of a larger global crisis in which gender-based violence continues to occur in every country around the world on a daily basis.

    We cannot stand by while women and girls are used as tools of war and continue to experience violence!” It called for support for a bipartisan International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) which has been reintroduced in the Senate and would make ending violence against women and girls a top diplomatic and foreign assistance priority.
Photo courtesy of Stevens Hill Community Church

Stevens Hill Community Church of the Brethren in Elizabethtown, Pa., included concern for the kidnapped girls in the congregation's Mothers Day worship on may 11. “Praying for all the mothers and families in the EYN Church in Nigeria," said Ann Bach, who sent in this photo.
  • Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger was interviewed May 8 by Elena Ferrarin of the “Daily Herald,” a newspaper covering the western suburbs of Chicago, Ill. Noffsinger spoke about the connection with the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, and the call for Brethren across the US and Puerto Rico to engage in prayer and fasting. "We mailed letters to our congregations with the names of the girls. Each girl's name was sent to six congregations so they could focus their prayer," Noffsinger said. "We have been in constant communication with the church leadership in Nigeria." Read the interview at www.dailyherald.com/article/20140507/news/140508593 .
  • A sermon by Tripp Hudgins, published in the Sojourners God's Politics Blog on May 5, quotes from general secretary Stan Noffsinger’s comments from a National Council of Churches release about the girls’ kidnapping. The sermon titled, “In the Breaking #bringbackourgirls,” reflects on the initial lack of media coverage of the kidnapping, and his feeling of being “simply heartbroken and astonished” on finally hearing the news, in light of the experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus as their eyes were opened to Jesus’ presence. “I had always thought that the burning hearts was a good thing. And it is. But it’s good in the way that it tells the truth, the way that the scales are lifted from our eyes and we see the world for what it truly is and not the fantasy I would make of it. It is in the breaking that we hear the truth. It is in the breaking that we come to understand.” Hudgins goes on to quote Noffsinger, “We are grateful for the prayers of millions of Christians, Muslims, and Jews around the world. We pray God’s unconditional love will touch the consciences of the men who did this.” Hudgins is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, Calif. Find his sermon at http://sojo.net/blogs/2014/05/05/sermon-breaking-bringbackourgirls .
  • The world's largest Muslim organization has denounced the kidnapping of the schoolgirls as "a gross misinterpretation of Islam,” according to media reports. The statement was made by a research institute and human rights committee of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, based in Saudi Arabia. "This crime and other crimes carried out by such extremist organizations negate all human principles and moral values and stand in contradiction to the clear teachings of the blessed Qur'an and the rightful examples set by the Prophet (Mohammad)," the OIC's International Islamic Fiqh Academy said. "The secretariat of the academy, shocked by this ugly act, strongly demands the immediate release of these innocent girls without causing any harm to any of them.”
Source: 5/13/2014 Newsline