Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Newsline: August 26, 2014


Plans progress for Nigeria relief effort in cooperation with EYN, Global Mission and Service, and Brethren Disaster Ministries

Photo courtesy of EYN

Global Mission and Service staff visit a refugee camp in Nigeria. Shown here, Jay Wittmeyer and Roy Winter speak with leaders of a refugee camp in Ankoma, in Karu local government in Nasarawa State. EYN staff report that more than 550 people are living in the refugee camp.
Plans are progressing for a relief effort responding to the violence in northeastern Nigeria, in cooperation with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries.

This follows on a resolution on Nigeria adopted by the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in July stating, in part: “We further resolve to partner with EYN and ecumenical international relief and development agencies to offer support as requested and directed by the leadership of the Nigerian Brethren.”

Global Mission and Service executive director Jay Wittmeyer and associate executive director Roy Winter of Brethren Disaster Ministries visited Nigeria earlier this month and met with EYN leaders to begin the planning. The meeting also considered needs for crisis management for EYN as well as security assessment and civil defense for EYN congregations and members.

“Just the fact that they were starting to move to an organized plan was extremely helpful to their own wellbeing,” Winter said in an interview he and Wittmeyer gave to Newsline on their return to the US. He warned that the plan is in the formative stages, and a lot of work must yet be done before a full relief effort is underway. “We can’t do much until we do a good assessment,” he said. “That’s got to be one of the first things” after EYN identifies leadership for the effort and hires staff to carry it out.

Winter said he anticipates a similar level of involvement in Nigeria as Brethren Disaster Ministries took on following the massive earthquake that devastated Haiti in early 2010, which resulted in a large disaster relief and rebuilding program and significant cooperation with the Haitian Brethren.

In recent years, EYN and its members have suffered innumerable losses at the hands of the Boko Haram insurgent group, including hundreds of murders, village massacres, the destruction of churches and homes and businesses, and abductions including the schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok and the abduction of pastors and their families, among other atrocities. The United Nations says 650,000 people have fled their homes because of Boko Haram fighting, according to a recent Voice of America report.

Among the displaced are 45,000 EYN members, according to reporting from EYN staff. The displaced church members have been seeking refuge in other communities or with extended family in other areas of Nigeria, or have fled across the border to Cameroon.

Boko Haram, which translates as “Western education is forbidden,” is an extremist Islamist group that has turned to terror tactics in a fight for a “pure Islamic state” and the imposition of Sharia law in northeastern Nigeria.

A call to be the church in Nigeria

A highlight of the meeting between EYN leaders, Wittmeyer, and Winter was the setting of priorities for a response, and the decision to regard the effort in terms of spiritual discernment. “Discerning the call to be the church in Nigeria today” was a key component of the planning process, Winter said.

The meeting with top EYN staff included president Samuel Dante Dali, general secretary Jinatu Wamdeo, and leaders of church departments crucial to the relief effort and crisis management: the Relief Committee, the ZME Women’s Fellowship, the Peace Program, and the staff liaison to the Church of the Brethren in the US, among others.

Six priorities were set:
  • work with internally displaced people,
  • development of a risk management/security plan to help mitigate the effects of violence on Brethren congregations,
  • growth of the EYN Peace Program,
  • pastoral care and trauma healing and resiliency programs,
  • training of youth to deal with the situation,
  • work with refugees across the border in Cameroon.
Winter helped facilitate the meeting, which in addition to identifying needs and priorities laid out an agenda for strategic planning and crisis management, and talked about how to get started, and who is assigned to these tasks.

The Nigerian Brethren leaders provided background information and updates, including a history of the crisis and an analysis of the extremist Islamist focus on northeastern Nigeria. They reviewed latest statistics, which revealed significant increases in the impact of the violence on EYN.

Violence increasingly affects EYN

“Some of those statistics were startling to me,” Winter said. For example, he reported that EYN has now closed 7 of its 51 church districts--two more than the 5 districts that had been closed as of the start of the summer. Parts of other districts also are being abandoned. The districts are closing because their areas are being overrun by the insurgents or are becoming too violent and dangerous.

Winter was struck by what this means in terms of financial impact on the Nigerian church and its leaders. The loss of whole districts means less support for ongoing church program, even as EYN tries to mount a new relief effort. It also means loss of a living for numerous pastors and their families.

Celebrating EYN’s capacity to respond

During the meeting, Wittmeyer and Winter said the group took time to celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of EYN in the midst of such difficulties, and the capacity of the Nigerian Brethren. EYN’s strong administrative structure, with districts that hold regular meetings and communication between denomination and district leaders, lends itself to effective response in crisis.

For example, the general secretary has been contacting districts to get an accounting of what each is doing in the way of aid for those affected by violence. In another example, EYN staff have been sending out information about the Ebola epidemic and how to recognize symptoms and prevent spread of the deadly virus.

“We have to talk about Ebola within the current crisis, which is so frightening,” Winter commented.

Geopolitical analysis

In the historical background offered by the EYN leaders, Wittmeyer said he was impressed by the level of geopolitical analysis. EYN leaders trace the rise of Boko Haram back to pre-colonial empires--Fulani Empire and Borno Empire--that once ruled much of West Africa, and the Fulani/Hausa Caliphate that controlled the northeast of Nigeria before the creation of an independent, democratic nation.

They characterized Boko Haram as not unique in the world, Wittmeyer said, reporting that they placed Boko Haram among other violent factions who are actors in a global conflict playing itself out between different Muslim groups in various areas of the world.

One hope the EYN leaders hold to is that more Muslims will be open to cooperative work toward peace with Christians, as Boko Haram increasingly targets moderate Muslims and traditional community leaders, Wittmeyer said.

The refugee situation

Wittmeyer and Winter also visited refugee camps with EYN staff, to see first-hand some of the living conditions of those who have fled the violence. They visited camps outside of the capital city Abuja. One camp they visited houses more than 550 people, mainly from the Gwoza area which has been overrun by Boko Haram and now is under insurgent control.

In his follow up notes to the visit, EYN staff liaison Jauro Markus Gamache listed some key concerns about the situation of refugee families: diseases like malaria and typhoid and the related need for good toilet facilities, proper medical care for pregnant women, food needs in the refugee camps and malnutrition of some children, widows who are being marginalized and orphans who are not receiving care, problems associated with lack of protected sleeping spaces, lack of shade in a hot season of the year, and the need to purchase land for the camps both for living space and for farming.

“There is tremendous increase in the [refugee] population and need for food and house rent is highly our priority,” he wrote.

His list bemoaned the disappearance of family members who are presumed to have gone into hiding, and the fact that some surrounding areas will not accept refugees because they fear retaliatory attacks by Boko Haram. He wrote as well that Muslims who are not affiliated with the insurgents are increasingly suffering from the violence.

The document also noted the activity of other Christian groups becoming active in camps where most of the people are EYN members.

Next steps

Next steps in the response start with refinement of the priorities, in communication with the EYN staff liaison, Winter said.

On the financial side, he and Wittmeyer will take on the task of clarifying what portions of the response are best covered by the EYN Compassion Fund, and which will be covered through grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF).

EYN plans to hire several staff for the relief effort, with some financial support from the American church, Wittmeyer said, adding that the new staff may include some of the pastors who have lost their churches.

How to help

There are three ways to contribute to the relief effort in Nigeria:

Donate to the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) at www.brethren.org/edf or by mailing a check to Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120, note “EDF Nigeria” in the memo line.

Donate to the Global Mission and Service program in Nigeria at https://secure2.convio.net/cob/site/Donation2?df_id=1660&1660.donation=form1 or by mailing a check to Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120, note “Global Mission Nigeria” in the memo line.

Donate to the EYN Compassion Fund at www.brethren.org/eyncompassion or by mailing a check care of the Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120, note “EYN Compassion Fund” in the memo line.

Source: 8/26/2014 Newsline

Grant goes to IMA World Health appeal for Ebola emergency

Brethren Disaster Ministries is directing an allocation of $15,000 from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to an IMA World Health appeal for support of Ebola health workers in Liberia. The grant is funding work carried out through the Christian Health Association of Liberia (CHAL).

Ebola is a highly contagious and deadly virus that continues to spread in Africa, especially in Liberia. It is responsible for more than 1,000 deaths. Since July, CHAL has been implementing an Ebola Awareness Project in three high alert counties in Liberia through funding mobilized from Lutheran World Relief, Week of Compassion, International Ministries, and the American Baptists.

The EDF grant will provide CHAL health workers with personal protective equipment including gloves, gowns, goggles, surgical masks, leg covers, face masks, head covers, and disinfectant, as well as training for their use.

For more about the Emergency Disaster Fund go to www.brethren.org/edf .

Source: 8/26/2014 Newsline

Bethany Seminary surpasses $5.9 million campaign goal

By Jenny Williams

Bethany Seminary had reason to celebrate this summer--and everyone at Annual Conference was invited to the party. On June 30, Bethany completed its three-year Reimagining Ministries Campaign, having raised 112 percent of the $5.9 million goal in gifts and commitments. Conferencegoers in Columbus, Ohio, joined Bethany faculty and staff for a popcorn party on the evening of July 4.

Reimagining Ministries, which was publicly launched at Annual Conference in 2011, had its beginnings in the seminary’s 2010-2015 strategic plan. The plan called for a financial campaign to support both ongoing programs and new initiatives outlined in the plan itself. The goals of the campaign named ways for Bethany to help address current challenges faced by the church, those in ministry, and theological education:
  • $1.7 million in new endowments to support
  • additional instruction in evangelism, the missional church, and multiple models of ministry
  • new curriculum in reconciliation studies
  • increased access to Bethany’s resources and services through technology, a personal presence in districts and churches, and on-site events
  • $750,000 in startup funds for the aforementioned projects until endowment support is available
  • $3.45 million for Bethany’s annual fund over four years.
“We made the decision to initiate a campaign during the economic downturn, and our feasibility study told us it might be a difficult to achieve the goals,” said Lowell Flory, executive director of institutional advancement and gift planning. “However, constituents saw the value of our plans and committed accordingly. We made the 47 percent goal we had set for our initial lead gift or “silent” year prior to the launch. In the three public campaign years, we were able to surpass the total campaign goal with gifts and commitments. Estate gifts from a number of longtime supporters were crucial to this success.”

Campaign strategy called for staff to work with a National Leadership Committee comprising alumni/ae and friends of Bethany from across the country. The committee provided input on communicating the challenges in ministry education and how this campaign better enables Bethany to meet those challenges; they also assisted with logistics, identifying many potential hosts for meetings and participating in these events. Small gatherings in homes were favored for engaging people in discussion and drawing in those who may not have been as familiar with Bethany. Over the past three years, nearly 100 meetings were held in 21 districts.

The results? New emphases in the curriculum on missional church and evangelism and on reconciliation studies with four new courses and three new courses, respectively. Debbie Roberts was hired as the new assistant professor of reconciliation studies. Bethany is also increasing access to its educational resources through seminars and courses taught at more locations, webcasting of campus events, and new technology that can bring students at a distance directly into the campus classroom.

“We are exceedingly grateful for the sense of partnership that Bethany donors share with us in preparing ministry leadership for what tomorrow's church is becoming,” said Flory.

-- Jenny Williams directs communications and alumni/ae relations at Bethany Seminary.

Source: 8/26/2014 Newsline

International Day of Prayer for Peace 2014 is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 21

A coloring page to help children celebrate the International Day of Prayer for Peace, one of the resources that On Earth Peace is offering for Peace Day 2014
By Elizabeth Ullery

Sunday, Sept. 21 is the International Day of Prayer for Peace, and On Earth Peace invites all in the Church of the Brethren to participate. Facing all the violence in the headlines and in human hearts, what if on Sept. 21 our communities of faith renewed our commitment to challenge violence and build peace?

This year’s events are guided by the 2014 theme for Peace Day, “Visions and Dreams of Building Peace,” drawn from Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17. Here are five things you can do on Sept. 21 to build peace in your community:
  1. Offer a prayer for peace on your own or gathered with others. Lift up prayers for peace that sit heavy on your heart. Find prayers at http://peacedaypray.tumblr.com/tagged/pray4peace .
  2. Talk about peace with the children in your life, share a book, or draw a picture of your dreams for building peace.
  3. Sing a song for peace.
  4. Light a candle to bring the light of peace into the world. Maybe even launch peace lanterns into a lake.
  5. Teach the next generation of peacemakers through a Kids as Peacemakers Mural. Find out more at http://peacedaypray.tumblr.com/post/89782467527/2014kidsaspeacemakers .
Make a commitment to join us in offering visions and dreams of building peace on Sept. 21 by registering your event or your congregation’s participation at http://peacedaypray.tumblr.com/join or joining in an event near you . Some events are being posted at http://peacedaypray.tumblr.com/tagged/2014stories .

Whether you are gathering with your congregation, lighting a candle on your own, or walking for peace in your community, Peace Day is an opportunity for practical peace action or capacity-building. Join us!

-- Elizabeth Ullery is coordinating the 2014 Peace Day Campaign for On Earth Peace. For more resources and information about the 2014 campaign see http://peacedaypray.tumblr.com . For more about the ministries of On Earth Peace go to www.onearthpeace.org .

Source: 8/26/2014 Newsline

Brethren Academy, Ministry Office, Bethany Seminary create new Sustaining Ministerial Excellence Advanced Seminar

The Brethren Academy, the Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry, and Bethany Theological Seminary are developing a new Sustaining Ministerial Excellence Advanced Seminar to succeed the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence (SPE) program that concluded last year. The first seminar experience is scheduled for Jan. 16-19, 2015, designated as a Beginning Retreat for a Bivocational Pastors Cohort.

A follow up to SPE

From 2004 to 2013, 197 pastors and 10 district executives completed the SPE program funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and administered by the Brethren Academy. The SPE participants focused on holistic health (intellectual, spiritual, emotional, relational, physical), greater connectedness to the whole church, and transformational leadership.

This new continuing education option of the Sustaining Ministry Excellence Advanced Seminar will include components from SPE as well as the Advanced Pastoral Seminar offered in the past by the denomination and seminary.

Seminar participants to examine church, ministry

Participants in the Sustaining Ministry Excellence Advanced Seminar will
  • examine the church and its mission in today’s society,
  • create strategies for personal and professional growth,
  • participate in community with other ministers, and
  • explore theological issues and ministry topics with seminary faculty, denominational leaders, and seminar members.
Cohorts will be formed for bi-vocational pastors, full-time pastors, chaplains, ordained camp staff, and those serving in other ministry contexts. Participants will attend four four-day retreats over the course of two years. Four continuing education units will be granted upon completion of the program.

Contact the Brethren Academy at academy@bethanyseminary.edu or 765-983-1824 for additional information. Pastors are invited to join in this opportunity that encourages lifelong learning and builds up the body of Christ.

-- Julie M. Hostetter contributed to this report. She is executive director of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, a partnership of the Church of the Brethren and Bethany Seminary.

Source: 8/26/2014 Newsline

Brethren Academy announces upcoming courses in 2014, 2015

The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership has issued an updated list of courses for 2014 and 2015. The Brethren Academy is a partnership of the Church of the Brethren and Bethany Theological Seminary, with offices on the Bethany campus in Richmond, Ind.

Academy courses are open to students in the Training in Ministry (TRIM) and Education for Shared Ministry (EFSM) programs, pastors (who may earn two continuing education units), and all interested persons. Students will be accepted beyond the registration deadlines, however those deadlines help determine whether enough students have registered to offer a course. Many courses have required pre-course readings, so students need to allow enough time to complete those readings. Those registering for courses should be sure to receive course confirmation before purchasing books or making travel plans.

To register for a course, contact academy@bethanyseminary.edu or 765-983-1824. For courses indicated “SVMC” register through the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center, at www.etown.edu/svmc or svmc@etown.edu or 717-361-1450.


“Luke-Acts and the Birth of the Church” is an online course from Sept. 29-Nov. 21 with instructor Matthew Boersma. The registration deadline is Sept. 5.

SVMC Academic Symposium Directed Independent Study Unit (DISU): “Book of Job and the Brethren Tradition” will be held on Nov. 5 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College with keynote speaker Bob Neff and panelists, and DISU instructor Erika Fitz. In addition to attending the symposium, DISU participants will prepare required readings and a follow-up paper, meet over lunch during the event, and participate in two online sessions with the DISU instructor, one before and one after the symposium. For more information on the Academic Symposium visit the course catalog at www.etown.edu/svmc . The registration deadline is Oct. 8.


“Evangelism: Now and Not Yet” will be held on Jan. 5-9, 2015, at Bethany Seminary in Richmond, Ind., with instructor Tara Hornbacker. The registration deadline is Dec. 1.

“Now the Silence, Now the Songs: An Introduction to Worship” is an online course from Feb. 2-March 27, 2015, with instructor Lee-Lani Wright. The registration deadline is Jan. 5, 2015.

“Narrative Theology” will be held on April 16-19, 2015, at McPherson (Kan.) College, with instructor Scott Holland. The registration deadline is March 19, 2015.

“Administration as Pastoral Care” (SVMC) will be held April 17-19, 2015, at Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren and Elizabethtown College, with instructor Julie Hostetter. The registration deadline is March 20, 2015.

A Travel Seminar to Germany will be held on May 15-31, 2015, led by instructor Kendall Rogers. The registration deadline is Nov. 1.

Annual Conference Directed Independent Study Unit (DISU) will be held onsite at the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Tampa, Fla., July 10-11, 2015, with presenter Joyce Rupp on the topic of “Delving Deeply into Compassion,” and DISU instructor Carrie Eikler. The registration deadline is June 12, 2015.

“Early Church History” is an online course with instructor Kendall Rogers, fall dates to be announced.

SVMC Academic Symposium Directed Independent Study Unit (DISU) on “New Testament Foundations of Ministry” with keynote speaker Dan Ulrich will be held at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa. DISU instructor and fall dates to be announced.

Source: 8/26/2014 Newsline

Webinar series to address ‘Opportunities and Challenges of Post-Christendom’

Authors of published or forthcoming books in the popular “After Christendom” series will lead a series of six webinars this year and next, presented by the Church of the Brethren, the Center for Anabaptist Studies at Bristol Baptist College in the UK, the Anabaptist Network, and the Mennonite Trust.

Following are dates, times, topics, and leadership of the webinars:

Oct. 21, 2014, “The Fading Brilliance of Christendom” with Stuart Murray Williams. He is the author of “Post-Christendom” and “Church after Christendom,” editor of the “After Christendom” series, a trainer/consultant working under the auspices of the Anabaptist Network, director of the Center for Anabaptist Studies at Bristol Baptist College, and one of the coordinators of Urban Expression.

Nov. 20, 2014, “Reading the Bible after Christendom” with Lloyd Pietersen. Pietersen has a doctorate from Sheffield in Biblical Studies, has written extensively on the Pastoral Epistles, was a senior lecturer in New Testament Studies at the University of Gloucestershire, and currently is a research fellow at Bristol Baptist College and serves on the Steering Group of the Center for Anabaptist Studies.

Jan. 29, 2015, “Hospitality and Community after Christendom” with Andrew Francis. Francis is a community theologian, published poet, writer of several books including “Hospitality and Community after Christendom” and “Anabaptism: Radical Christianity,” served as the UK Anabaptist Network’s first development worker, and as executive vice-chair of the UK Mennonite Trust until 2013.

Feb. 26, 2015, “Youth Work after Christendom (revisited)” with Nigel Pimlott. Pimlott has worked for Frontier Youth Trust for many years and is the author of numerous books and youth work resources, with a current book project titled “Embracing the Passion” about Christian youth work and politics.

May 6, 2015, “Atheism after Christendom” with Simon Perry. Perry is chaplain at Robinson College, University of Cambridge, and author of “Atheism after Christendom: Disbelief in an Age of Encounter,” with other publications including a piece of historical fiction titled “All Who Came Before” and a theological monograph, “Resurrecting Interpretation: Technology, Hermeneutics and the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus,” among others.

June 2, 2015, “God after Christendom?” with Brian Haymes and Kyle Gingerich Hiebert. Haymes is a Baptist minister who has served in several pastorates, the last being Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, London, and has been principal of Northern Baptist College, Manchester, and Bristol Baptist College. Hiebert is a Canadian Mennonite who holds a doctorate in theology from the University of Manchester.

Each webinar begins at 2:30 p.m. (Eastern) and runs for 60 minutes. There is no charge to participate, but donations are welcome. Registration and more information about the topics is online at www.brethren.org/webcasts . For questions contact Stan Dueck, the Church of the Brethren’s director of Transforming Practices, at sdueck@brethren.org .

Source: 8/26/2014 Newsline

Children’s Disaster Services offers training workshops in Hawaii, Indiana, Oregon

Photo by Lorna Grow

CDS volunteer Pearl Miller reads with a child in Joplin, Missouri, following severe tornadoes
Children’s Disaster Services (CDS), a Church of the Brethren ministry offering care for children and families following disasters, is holding three volunteer training workshops in September and October. The workshops will be held in Hawaii, Indiana, and Oregon. Cost is $45. Register and find more information at www.brethren.org/cds/training/dates.html .

Honolulu, Hawaii, is the location of a Sept. 5-6 workshop. For more information about registering for this training, contact Kathy Fry-Miller, associate director of Children's Disaster Services, at kfry-miller@brethren.org or 260-704-1443.

Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind., is host of a CDS workshop on Sept. 19-20. Register online for this event. The local contact person is Susan Finney, 260-901-0063.

Portland, Ore., is the site for a CDS workshop on Oct. 24-25. Register online for this event. The workshop will be held at Fruit and Flower,  2378 NW Irving, Portland. The local contact is Rhonda McDowall, 503-228-8349.

Cost to attend a CDS volunteer training workshop is $45, which includes all meals, curriculum, and one overnight stay. A late fee of $55 is required when registrations are mailed less than three weeks before the event. For CDS volunteers, there is a $25 retraining fee. Workshops are limited to 25 persons, so early registration is recommended.

Workshops are scheduled throughout the year. To be notified of upcoming workshops, please send an e-mail with name, address, and e-mail address to CDS@brethren.org .

Find out more about what participants may expect at a CDS workshop, and what to bring along, at www.brethren.org/cds/training . For more information and questions, call the CDS office at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., at 800-451-4407, ext. 5.

Source: 8/26/2014 Newsline

Brethren bits

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

The assistant workcamp coordinators for the 2015 workcamp season are Theresa Ford and Hannah Shultz
  • The Workcamp Office of the Church of the Brethren has welcomed Theresa Ford and Hannah Shultz as assistant coordinators for the 2015 Brethren workcamp season. They will serve through Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS), working at the denomination’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Ford has spent the last year serving in BVS in Waco, Texas, and comes originally from Atlantic Northeast District. Shultz graduated from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., in May with a degree in Religious Studies, and is originally from the Baltimore, Md., area.
  • A shipment of relief materials has been sent to Kentucky by the Material Resources program based at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., in response to an urgent request from Church World Service (CWS). Clean-up buckets, blankets, and hygiene kits were shipped to Garrett, in Floyd County, Ky., “bringing practical comfort to people...who are struggling amidst multiple disasters--including flash flooding that overwhelmed schools and homes on Aug. 12,” said a note from Glenna Thompson, office assistant for Material Resources. “Extending solace is a local group called Sisters of Hope Charitable Community and Disaster Relief, based in Garrett.” The shipment left New Windsor, Md., today and will be delivered tomorrow.
  • The Church of the Brethren is one of the sponsors of a National Service of Mourning in remembrance of those who have died in Palestine and Israel, to take place Sept. 3 at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. “The loss and suffering resulting from the latest conflict between the Israeli military and Palestinian groups in Gaza is staggering,” said an announcement shared by the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness. “More than 1,400 civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been displaced. Weeks of overwhelming destruction have devastated land, homes, and infrastructure. The siege of Gaza and the military occupation of Palestinian territory cripple normal life. As the people of the region cry, ‘How long, O Lord?’ we join our prayers with theirs in a service of worship. In the midst of sorrow and grief, please join us in a witness to faith, hope and love.” Other sponsoring groups include the Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, among many others. The service is coordinated by the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy, a network of national Christian denominations and organizations working for a just peace in the Middle East with a primary focus on Israel and Palestine. The service will start at 6 p.m. In addition to the in-person service, live streaming will be available.
  • Shenandoah District’s Congregational Care Advisory Team is sponsoring two deacon training events this fall, under the title “Equipping for Leadership: His Hands and Feet.” The training will be led by Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries for the Church of the Brethren. Leake's Chapel Church of the Brethren in Stanley, Va., will host the first training on Saturday, Sept. 27, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., with three sessions on the topics "What Are Deacons Supposed to Do, Anyway?" "Deacons and Pastors: The Pastoral Care Team," and "The Art of Listening and Caring Support During Grief and Loss." Waynesboro (Va.) Church of the Brethren will host the second training on Saturday, Oct. 4, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. with three sessions on the topics "What Are Deacons Supposed to Do, Anyway?" "Answering the Call," and "Reconciliation and Peacemaking." The registration fee of $15 per person, or $25 per couple, includes lunch. Ministers will receive continuing education credit. Find a registration form at http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1110837621104-371/2014+DeaconTrainingRegform.pdf . For additional information about the training at Leake's Chapel contact 540-778-1433; at Waynesboro, contact 540-280-0657.
  • Geiger Church of the Brethren is celebrating 100 years of serving the Lord in its present location in the village of Geiger just northeast of Somerset, Pa. The first sermon at the Geiger Church was preached by J.H. Cassady 100 years ago on Aug. 20, according to a newspaper announcement of the anniversary.
  • The 44th Annual Dunker Church Remembrance Service held in the restored Dunker Church at Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Md., will be on Sunday, Sept. 14, at 3 p.m. Pastors Tim and Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey of Hagerstown (Md.) Church of the Brethren will be the preachers. This remembrance service sponsored by area Churches of the Brethren reflects on what the Dunker Church symbolizes for 1862 and 2014. The service is open to the public. For more information, contact Eddie Edmonds at 304-267-4135, Tom Fralin at 301-432-2653, or Ed Poling at 301-766-9005.
  • Arlington (Va.) Church of the Brethren is hosting a presentation on the New Community Project “Give a Girl a Chance” program. The speaker is New Community Project director David Radcliff. The program starts at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 19.
  • Berkey (Pa.) Church of the Brethren joined Bethany Covenant Church in Mayfield, Ohio, again this year for an annual Kentucky Mission Trip. Youth and adults traveled to Kentucky to do physical labor and to teach Vacation Bible School in Caney Creek holler, said a story in the Western Pennsylvania District newsletter. The trip took place July 6-12. “Since we have done this VBS for more than a decade, we are known in the community and God is able to build each year on the work He did through us the years before,” the report said.
  • Northern Plains District Conference recognized a number of ministers for significant years of ordained ministry with the church: Christina Singh, 5 years; Dave Kerkove, 15 years; Alan McLearn-Montz, 15 years; Marlene Neher, 20 years; Lucinda Douglas, 25 years; Marge Smalley, 25 years; Vernon Merkey, 60 years; Richard Burger,70 years. Video highlights from the district conference by Jesse McLearn-Montz are posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XLmrtQVAhE .
  • Western Pennsylvania District’s 31st Annual Brethren Heritage Festival at Camp Harmony near Hooversville, Pa., takes place on Saturday, Sept. 20. Events start at 7:30 a.m. with breakfast, followed by devotions and bread and cup communion, and continue through the day and into the evening, closing with a heritage auction at 3 p.m. In between are activities for all ages including booths, hayrides, a district choir, a children’s program, climbing tower, the “Love Tones” (pastor Larry and Judy Walker), “Tabernacle Time” with Jim Myer, and a Red Cross Blood Drive from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. For more information contact the camp at 814-798-5885.
  • “You still have time to sign up for the Brethren Heritage Tour that will visit sites of significance in Brethren history in Maryland and Pennsylvania over the weekend of Oct. 17-19,” said an announcement from Shenandoah District. The tour has been arranged through the district's Pastoral Support Committee and offers 1.4 continuing education units for ministers. However, it is open to everyone “until the bus is full,” said the note from the district. Among other sites, the tour will visit the Civil War battlefield at Antietam and the Brethren meetinghouse there, Sharpsburg African American Chapel (Tolson’s Chapel), the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, Ephrata Cloisters in Ephrata, Pa., the Kreider Meetinghouse in Lititz, Pa., and Germantown Church of the Brethren and its historic cemetery in the greater Philadelphia area. The cost of $158 per person includes chartered bus transportation, an evening meal in an Amish home, two nights lodging, and admission and instructor fees. Registration and a $50 deposit are due by Sept. 5. Find a schedule at http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1110837621104-365/2014BHTAugLtr.pdf .
  • The Springs of Living Water Academy is convening another class in church renewal, intended for pastors. The class meets by phone five times over a 12-week period, beginning Sept. 10 from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. The class is designed for growth in spiritual disciplines, using Richard J. Foster's “Celebration of Discipline, The Path to Spiritual Growth.” A guided syllabus with learning objectives provides the framework for discussion of readings out of “Springs! of Living Water, Christ-centered Church Renewal” by teacher David S. Young. A few persons from each congregation walk with pastors to begin the journey of a spiritually-focused, servant-led path to renewal for individuals and congregations. Find an interpretative video about the Springs Initiative by David Sollenberger at www.churchrenewalservant.org . The registration deadline is Aug. 20. Contact davidyoung@churchrenewalservant.org .
  • As part of its 125th anniversary celebration, Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., is offering an evening of entertainment by the Chicago comedy powerhouse Second City, said an announcement from the alumni office. The Second City performance is part of that group’s 55th Anniversary Tour. Held at the Embassy Theater in Fort Wayne, Ind., on Nov. 7 at 8 p.m., the performance will feature “a special improv routine dedicated to Manchester,” said the announcement. To reserve tickets, contact 888-257-ALUM or alumnioffice@manchester.edu . Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Aug. 29.
  • Pacific Southwest District is publicizing a “Healthy Conversations Workshop” to be held Sept. 20, from 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. in the President’s Dining Room at the University of La Verne, Calif. “Have you ever felt frustrated, hurt, or discouraged by another’s words?” asked an invitation. “In this workshop you will discover what happens in unhealthy conversations and what you can do to get different results. The workshop goal is to create a foundation for conflict resolution, relationship building, and spiritual growth. Jesus gave us the key to thriving and conflict resolution 2,000 years ago. Love God with your heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22: 37-40). In this workshop we will learn how to do this!” Cost is $50. Continuing education credit is available for ministers. Find a flyer with details at www.pswdcob.org/email/HealtyConversationsFlyer.pdf .
  • “The National Council of Churches USA grieves for the plight of Christians and other religious minorities, including Yazidis, Turkmen, and Shabaks, in Iraq,” said an NCC news release this week. The release noted that in the early part of the last decade, there were some 1.5 million Christians living in Iraq, but now it is estimated that less than 400,000 remain and numbers are dwindling in the midst of ongoing unrest. “The evolving disappearance of the Christian community from that ancient landscape, as well as the displacement of neighbors of other faiths and traditions, is a cause for great alarm,” the NCC said. The statement went on to express concern for the suffering of the Iraqi people in general, saying that it is not limited to religious minorities and mentioning the murder of American journalist James Foley as well. The release called for a greater role for the United Nations in Iraq, saying that the NCC is hesitant to endorse a military campaign by the United States. “The continual reliance on military action as the default solution to conflict must be called into question, and alternative, more far-reaching solutions to the vicious cycle of violence must be found,” the release said, in part. “As we reflected on the war in Iraq eight years ago, ‘We believe that freedom, along with genuine security, is based in God, and is served by the recognition of humanity's interdependence, and by working with partners to bring about community, development, and reconciliation for all.’”
  • Church of the Brethren member Peggy Gish is one of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) volunteers working in Iraqi Kurdistan, who are accompanying a Kurdish women’s organization in its efforts to aid Yazidi women and girls abducted by the Islamic State. In a release, CPT encouraged creation of “a nonviolent alternative to the terror of the IS [Islamic State]. We urge international governments to step up their humanitarian aid donations to agencies desperately trying to help the hundreds of thousands Iraqis fleeing the IS onslaught and to open their borders to refugees.” The release told about a protest on behalf of the abducted Yazidi women and girls held Aug. 24, when more than 60 activists from the woman’s organization marched to the UN Consulate in Erbil to demand that the UN do more to help. “They carried banners reading, ‘UN, Take Action, Our Women and Girls are Enslaved,’ and ‘Committing Genocide Against the Minorities is a Stark Violation of International Humanitarian Law.’” Leaders who went into the consulate to speak with representatives from the UN were accompanied by Gish and another member of CPT. The release said Islamic State militants have forced some of the women to become wives of fighters, have sold others into slavery, have threatened women with death, and have killed men who refused to convert to the group’s version of Islam. The Yazidis are a small ethnic and religious community in Iraqi Kurdistan, and are among minority groups targeted by the militants along with Christians and others. The Islamic State has “attacked the Yazidis with particular viciousness,” the release said. For more about CPT, go to www.cpt.org .
Source: 8/26/2014 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 Stan Dueck, Nathan Hosler, Julie M. Hostetter, Philip E. Jenks, Nancy Miner, Glenna Thompson, Susan P. Wilder, Roy Winter, Jay Wittmeyer, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Newsline: August 19, 2014


Disaster ministry directs grant to CWS work with unaccompanied child refugees, Material Resources sends supplies following floods in Detroit

Brethren Disaster Ministries has directed a grant of $25,000 from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to support the Church World Service response to the surge of unaccompanied child refugees entering the United States.
In other disaster response news, the denomination’s Material Resources program has shipped supplies to areas of Michigan affected by flooding. The program received an urgent CWS request to ship 2,000 Clean-Up Buckets to Detroit. The shipment left the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., yesterday, to be delivered today to the American Red Cross in Michigan.

Grant to CWS for unaccompanied child refugees

The staff of Brethren Disaster Ministries requested the allocation of $25,000 for CWS efforts responding to the needs of thousands of unaccompanied children into the US from Central America. The combination of poor economics and high levels of violence in Central America has resulted in a surge of more than 57,000 unaccompanied children coming into the country already in 2014.

As children seek to escape the violence in Central America, and in many cases reunite with family already in the US, the result is a growing humanitarian challenge and crisis for these children, said the grant request.

The funds will provide Spanish-speaking legal aid to unaccompanied children in Austin, Texas;  religious services, pastoral support, and basic supplies (food, water, clothing, medical care, and housing) to children in New Mexico; and support to children who have been returned to Honduras (not admitted into the US) in the form of food, healthcare, and hygiene services while they live in a designated shelter.

For more about the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries go to www.brethren.org/bdm. For more about the Emergency Disaster Fund see www.brethren.org/edf.

Source: 8/19/2014 Newsline

Children’s Disaster Services contracts with new Gulf Coast coordinator

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) has contracted with Joy Haskin Rowe to work as the CDS Gulf Coast regional coordinator. She lives in North Port, Fla., and also serves part-time in a pastoral ministry position with Central Christian Church in Bradenton, Fla. In other news from CDS, a volunteer in Hawaii worked with the American Red Cross to provide some care for children affected by Hurricane Iselle.

CDS Gulf Coordinator
Joy Haskin Rowe
Gulf Coast regional coordinator

This position is a partnership with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Joy Haskin Rowe holds a master of divinity degree from Christian Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the Disciples of Christ. She has had experience in program planning and implementation, ecumenical and mission work, congregational ministry, children's ministry, and chaplaincy.

Rowe is working with Kathy Fry-Miller, the associate director of Children's Disaster Services, to expand CDS efforts in the Gulf Coast states. In particular, she will network with other disaster response organizations, set up volunteer training, call CDS leaders, and support the creation of Rapid Response teams to be able to respond to disasters in the area with more urgency and flexibility.

She already has begun the networking effort. Last week, she and Fry-Miller met with staff from the American Red Cross, county government, Children's Board, local VOADs (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), and the state VOAD chair, in Tampa, Fla., hosted by the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. The two also met with the American Red Cross Division Disaster Director in Sarasota, Fla. Contact Rowe at CDSgulfcoast@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of CDS

CDS and American Red Cross volunteer interacts with childrren at a DARC center in Hawaii following Hurricane Iselle

One of the trained Children's Disaster Services volunteers in Hawaii worked briefly with the American Red Cross to provide some care for children affected by Hurricane Iselle. The program had put volunteers on alert last week to help out at the Disaster Assistance and Recovery Center (DARC) at Pahoa Community Center on the big island of Hawaii.

“Candy Iha, CDS and Red Cross volunteer, reported that there was not enough space for setting up a children's center and no accommodations for volunteers, but that they were able to offer some comfort to children for the short time they were there with their parents in the center,” Fry-Miller posted on Facebook. The CDS volunteer distributed crayons and paper for children to draw while their family filled out forms.

Previously, as the hurricane was approaching the islands, Iha already had been providing support for children. “I have been providing support these past few days to keiki [children] in our town who are rightfully very frightened,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “The schools are closed and everyone is home waiting for it to be over. We also had a 4.3 earthquake up here this morning, so folks are being tested. Mahalo [thank you] for your prayers.”

For more about the work of Children’s Disaster Services go to www.brethren.org/cds.

Source: 8/19/2014 Newsline

Christian Peacemaker Teams issues urgent call to help displaced Yazidi people

The following release was sent out today by Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) concerning the urgent situation of the Yazidi people who have fled the Islamic State forces in northern Iraq. CPT has a longterm team of volunteers working in Iraqi Kurdistan:
CPT Iraqi Kurdistan, together with the Wadi and Alind organizations, spent two days with the Yazidi people who fled the terror of the Islamic State (IS) forces in the areas of Shangal/Sinjar. We visited two IDP camps in the Duhok governorate and interviewed more than 50 displaced people, who lost their relatives in IS attacks. The militias killed the men, kidnapped and raped the women, and many children and elderly died of dehydration and exhaustion as they fled.

The Yazidis spent a number of days on the mountain and in the semi-desert with very little food or water under the intense summer heat. The conditions they face in Iraqi Kurdistan are difficult and far from sufficient. Seeking for ways to better respond to this crisis, we are sending out an urgent call to action to the international community.

Photo courtesy of CPT

Refugees from Islamic State violence in Syria and Iraq
Full statement from the CPT Iraqi Kurdistan team:

Help the Displaced Yazidi People from Shangal: Civil Society Organizations’ Urgent Call to the International Community

Representatives of three human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs), a German-Kurdish organization Wadi, a North American-based international organization Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), and Duhok-based Alind Organization, conducted a two day visit on 15 and 16 August 2014 to areas in the Duhok Governorate of Iraqi Kurdistan where Yazidi Iraqis who fled the violence of the Islamic State (IS) forces from the Shangal (Sinjar) area are now staying. The representatives spoke with an official at the Peshabur (Faysh Khabur) Iraqi-Syrian border crossing, who estimated that since 5 August more than 100,000 people have entered seeking refuge.

The representatives observed Yazidi families camping out under makeshift tents along the roads throughout the area, under highway overpass bridges, or in the open sided concrete buildings under construction. They visited the displacement camp for an estimated 2,000 people (no official numbers given) in the Khanke municipality near the town of Semel, and the Bajet Kandala Refugee Camp, near the Peshabur crossing. At these camps, they spoke with over 50 displaced persons. Those interviewed shared many common experiences. Families reported men in their family killed and women raped or kidnapped by IS forces, escaping to Mount Shangal, watching relatives die for lack of food and water and suffering extreme heat exposure. They appeared deeply traumatized, and spoke of shame and despair about their future. The majority of the interviewees said they feared to stay in Iraq and wanted to emigrate to Europe, the USA, or Canada.

Khanke camp has been set up on a field next to a small town to care for the rapid influx of the displaced Yazidis. More than 100 white UNHCR tents are spread around the field. People sat in the shade of the tents on cardboard or dusty mats. A local organization has delivered mattresses to a small portion of the residents. There were no water systems for consumption or bathing near the tents. Residents hauled water in buckets from a local school, but had bottles of water for drinking. According to the residents, the camp had only two latrines. Local people of the town served the residents of the camp a warm meal about 5 p.m., consisting of rice and bulgur wheat. Apart from one police car, the NGO representatives saw no security system for the camp, which might put women and children, especially, at risk of abuse. People are in dire need of sufficient sanitation, food, vitamins, and medical attention as well as administration and security.

Bajet Kandala Refugee Camp, situated just several kilometers from the Peshabur border crossing, was meant to serve as a reception/transit camp for the Syrian refugees. In an older portion of the camp, the visiting human rights workers saw canvas shelters, electricity, latrines, and water spigots. The other part, filled with several hundred white tents, was not finished. Residents of the new part, mostly families, had to cross a highly trafficked road to the older camp to haul buckets of water and get a tray of what appeared to be subsistence amounts of cooked food, mainly rice.

According to the administrator of the camp, a representative of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), around 20,000 people resided there as of 16 August. The camp is run by a KRG-related agency that appeared to be overwhelmed with the numbers of people already present and those arriving at the camp daily. A 15-member family sitting under a makeshift shelter at the side of the camp told an NGO representative that they had not eaten for three days. No international aid agencies were present at the camp.

Call to Action: Wadi, Christian Peacemaker Teams, and Alind, as international and Kurdish civil society organizations, call on the United Nations and all international aid agencies, government and non-governmental bodies to help the Yazidi people of Shangal!

The Kurdistan Regional authorities, along with local communities, are doing much to provide help for those in need, but the region is overwhelmed by the enormity of the influx of the hundreds of thousands displaced Yazidis, Christians, Shabaks, Turkmen, and others fleeing the horrific violence perpetuated by the Islamic State forces.

We ask the Iraqi government to act quickly and provide financial support from the central budget and try to find and release the missing persons, especially the women, remembering that Iraq signed resolution 1325 UNSCR in 2013, which calls on governments to protect women and children in conflict.

We urge the UN and other aid agencies to act quickly to provide necessary infrastructure to meet basic needs for the displaced--inside and outside the camps--such as food, sufficient sanitation systems, medical care, and protection.

We urge nations of the world to open their borders for those displaced by violence and to provide a process for them to immigrate and the financial and legal assistance needed.

Photographs from the camps can be found at www.flickr.com/photos/51706128@N00. Individual stories of people can be found at www.facebook.com/cpt.ik. An online pdf version of the call for aid is available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwFG-gDIQtW8amVyTk4tbjNTVzBaMEp2VWptcDRPSVdMcGxF/edit?usp=sharing . For more about the work of Christian Peacemaker Teams, go to www.cpt.org.

Source: 8/19/2014 Newsline

Callie Surber resigns from Brethren Volunteer Service staff

Callie Surber has resigned as orientation coordinator for BVS
Callie Surber has resigned as orientation coordinator for Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS), a position she has held since September 2007. Her last day at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., will be Sept. 19. She has accepted a position at the Q Center, a corporate retreat center in St. Charles, Ill.

Surber’s primary responsibility has been running the BVS orientation units. During her tenure, she has led 23 orientations and oriented 372 volunteers. She has co-led 14 BVS mid-term retreats, 4 end-of-service retreats, and 2 BVS retreats in Central America. She oversaw the application process for new volunteers, and provided significant support to BVS volunteers in the field. She gave oversight to the social media and web presence of BVS and led an effort to redesign and improve communication resources.

She served in BVS herself from 2003-06 in Nigeria, where she taught English Arts and African Literature at the EYN Comprehensive Secondary School of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

Source: 8/19/2014 Newsline

BBT announces new communications director and assistant director of financial operations

Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) has hired Alaska Jean Bednar as director of communications, and has hired Julie Kingrey as assistant director of financial operations.

Alaska Jean Bednar begins tomorrow, Aug. 20, as director of communications for BBT, working at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Jim Lehman concluded his four-month service as BBT’s interim director of communications on July 25.

Bednar most recently was director of Advancement for Judson University in Elgin. She also has done freelance and volunteer work and is deeply involved in the community of Elgin. She serves as vice president of the Gail Borden Public Library Board and is a member and board member of the Gifford Park Association. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in English from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City. Bednar grew up in Kenai, Alaska, and Chicago, Ill.. She and her family live in Elgin.

Julie Kingrey begins as assistant director of financial operations for BBT on Aug. 25. She and her family recently relocated to the Chicago area from Farmville, N.C. Prior to the move, she was employed for more than 10 years as fund accounting manager for the Nottingham Company in Rocky Mount, N.C.  The Nottingham Company is a vendor of BBT’s and Kingrey worked on account managing BBT funds along with more than 40 others.

Kingrey holds a bachelor of science degree in accounting with a minor in management from Pennsylvania State University. She and her family now reside in Wheaton, Ill.

For more about the work of Brethren Benefit Trust go to www.brethrenbenefittrust.org.

Source: 8/19/2014 Newsline

Bethany Seminary and ESR hire new computing specialist

By Jenny Williams

Bethany Theological Seminary and Earlham School of Religion, both located in Richmond, Ind., have hired Ryan Frame as seminary computing specialist. Frame began his duties on Aug. 5.

“The seminary is committed to developing ways in which changing technology can increase classroom accessibility for individuals and congregations and can also enable greater efficiency for faculty and staff,” said Jeff Carter, president of Bethany. “Ryan is joining us at an exciting time of innovation and creativity.”

As the onsite technology employee for both seminaries, Frame is responsible for maintenance and upgrades of hardware and software systems and provides advice and support for end users in both office and classroom settings. He will carry out his duties in liaison with the seminaries’ external technology provider, ASLI Inc., and will work with Earlham College Computing Services on campus-wide technology issues as needed.

“Ryan brings a wealth of expertise and technical background to his new position,” said Steven Schweitzer, academic dean. Frame has been the proprietor of Simplify Systems in Richmond, providing technology services to individuals and small businesses. Beginning in 2005 he also held managerial positions for Venture Management, including training of supervisors and crew, managing inventory and business expenditures, and conducting inventory audits for Wendy’s restaurants in the region. Frame earned an associate’s degree in computer information systems from Ivy Tech Community College and a bachelor’s degree in business, specializing in management information systems, from Indiana University.

-- Jenny Williams directs communications and alumni/ae relations for Bethany Seminary.

Source: 8/19/2014 Newsline

Many Brethren commit to a week of prayer and fasting for Nigeria

Roy Winter of Brethren Disaster Ministries (second from left above) and Jay Wittmeyer of Global Mission and Service (second from right above) spent two days in meetings with EYN leadership to discuss plans for a disaster relief effort focused on the needs of refugees and people displaced by violence. Below, Winter and EYN president Samuel Dali, shown with papers of notes during the meetings. The two executive staff of the Church of the Brethren returned to the US on Aug. 19. During their time in Nigeria, they also visited refugee camps and other sites in the Abuja and Jos areas.
Many Church of the Brethren congregations, groups, and individuals are taking part in a week of prayer and fasting for Nigeria, from Sunday, Aug. 17, through Sunday, Aug. 24. The denomination committed to the week of emphasis on Nigeria as part of a resolution adopted by the 2014 Annual Conference. Brethren are called to pray during a time of violence and suffering in Nigeria, in support of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

The Church of the Brethren has had a mission in northeastern Nigeria since 1923, from which EYN grew into an independent indigenous African Christian denomination. Find the resolution at www.brethren.org/news/2014/delegates-adopt-nigeria-resolution.html. Find resources for prayer and fasting at www.brethren.org/partners/nigeria/week-of-prayer-and-fasting.html.

In related news, Church of the Brethren executive staff returned today from a trip to Nigeria to assist EYN in planning a disaster relief effort focused on refugees and those displaced by violence. Jay Wittmeyer of Global Mission and Service and Roy Winter of Brethren Disaster Ministries spent two days meeting with EYN leadership, and visited refugee camps and other sites in the areas of Abuja and Jos. (Look for a report from their trip in the next Newsline).

Brethren across the United States commit to pray and fast

“I would offer us a challenge,” wrote Annual Conference moderator David Steele in his letter inviting Brethren to take part in the week of prayer and fasting. “Imagine sisters and brothers offering 192 continuous hours of prayer around the globe. Imagine the Church of the Brethren being at prayer somewhere for the entire week for our EYN sisters and brother in Christ. This of course means that some will rise early in the morning, go to bed a bit later, or even awake during the night in order to be in prayer for our sisters and brothers.

“In Matthew 17 Jesus instructed us that even mountains can be moved by faith, that there is nothing we cannot do by faith.... May we, as followers of Jesus, witness to the peace of God and companion our sisters and brothers in Nigeria and around the world with our prayers. May we encircle the globe with the prayer of faith!”

As evidenced by the list of groups that signed up online for the effort, prayers of Brethren are going up for Nigeria from across the country. At least 63 congregations, groups, and organizations of Brethren are listed, and there may be more that are taking part in the effort whose names have not made it on to the web listing.

In the Goshen area of Indiana, a group of eight congregations are each hosting a special service one evening this week. Several churches are hosting day-long prayer vigils, or are having a special Nigeria emphasis during a Sunday morning worship service. Groups of neighboring congregations are cooperating in a common effort in parts of the country. Some churches are gathering their members together every day for a time of focused prayer.

Several wrote prayers for the online listing. Others offered ideas for fasting: "We are invited to fast one meal a day and give the money we would have spent on that meal to the EYN Compassion Fund." "Fast from meals, or Facebook or news or TV or books or ???" "Folks in our congregation...are being encouraged to give up something to make more time for prayer."

Among other efforts of Brethren groups is a letter issued by the Shenandoah District Pastors for Peace. The letter decries the violence in Nigeria and commends EYN for its peaceful witness and faithful discipleship. “We lift up their faith as a light to all of us.... Could such a faith as theirs be possible among us?” the letter says, in part, as quoted in the district newsletter.

The online schedule where individuals can commit to pray for a hour or hours this week shows almost every hourly slot filled. (Still to be filled with prayer are the hours of 2-3 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 23, and the hours of 2-3 a.m., 3-4 a.m., 10-11 a.m., and 11 a.m.-12 noon on Sunday, Aug. 24.) Some hours list eight or more people committing to that time of prayer.

It is not too late to take part in the effort to fill every hour with prayer, go to www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0544acaa2aa7fa7-week. Find the listing of congregations and groups holding services or vigils at www.brethren.org/partners/nigeria/prayer-events.html.

A special chapel service at the General Offices

Every Wednesday morning the staff who work at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., gather for a weekly chapel service. Tomorrow’s chapel will be a time of focused prayer for Nigeria. The special service from 8:30-9 a.m., will be the opening event of an August gathering for Church of the Brethren staff.

The chapel service will focus on the four elements of “The resolve of the church” section of the Nigeria resolution: lament, prayer, fasting, and bearing witness. Following the service, in place of the usual “Goodie Wednesday” coffee break, the staff of the Church of the Brethren and Brethren Benefit Trust, which share in the weekly gatherings, are invited to join in fellowship and share in a cup of cold water.

Find out more about this week of fasting and prayer for Nigeria, and links to information about the Church of the Brethren’s mission in Nigeria and sister denomination Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, at www.brethren.org/partners/nigeria/week-of-prayer-and-fasting.html.

Source: 8/19/2014 Newsline

EYN leaders share updates on recent violence in Nigeria, interfaith relief efforts

Two leading members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) have sent reports detailing recent violence and continuing relief efforts to aid refugees and those fleeing violent attacks by the Boko Haram insurgent group. Reports have been received from Rebecca Dali, who heads up an NGO aiding survivors and who represented EYN at the 2014 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren, and Markus Gamache who serves as EYN staff liaison.
Following are excerpts from their reports. Readers are warned that some details about the violence are graphic and may be disturbing:

Insurgent attacks are ‘getting worse’

The insurgents continued killing and bombing people, burning churches, and vandalizing and destroying property, according to a report from Rebecca Dali. “Nigerian violence is getting worse,” she wrote, in a report that detailed the deaths of many EYN members and the destruction of churches. “Continue to pray for us.”
Photo courtesy of CCEPI

EYN churches in Dille and the EYN Pastorium were burned in recent insurgent attacks
  • June 30: insurgents blocked the only terrain road to Gavva West, Ngoshe, and other places.
  • July 6 and 13: insurgents attacked Chibok villages of Kwada and Kautikari during church services, killing 72 and 52 people respectively.
  • July 14: an attack on Dille killed almost all the men in church, 52. Dali added: “One woman they kidnapped three of her children and killed her husband. They took her six-month baby boy and throw him on fire.”
  • July 18: a woman who was forced to go with the insurgents to treat their patients refused. “They cut off her head and placed it on her back,” Dali wrote, and included a photo of the body.
  • July 26: in Shaffa three people were killed and the insurgents took cars.
  • July 28: in Garkida, which was the first mission point of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, insurgents killed four soldiers and three other people.
  • July 30: Boko Haram went to  five villages and burnt their churches, including Kwajaffa 1 and 2, Kurbutu, Tasha Alade, Man Jankwa.
  • Early August: Four female suicide bombers blew themselves up and killed many people.
  • Also earlier this month: the Boko Haram militants overran and took over the town of Gwoza, killing at least 100 people.
Dali’s report included news of the destruction and loss of a number of EYN church buildings and parsonages. She reported that part of EYN Dille No. 1 and 2 Churches, and the EYN Pastorium in Dille were burned.

The attack on Garkida may have occurred on July 27, according to Gamache’s report. Garkida is the place where the Church of the Brethren was first started in Nigeria in 1923. Residents of Garkida believe the attack was launched on the town to find a chief who fled there for refuge from Kilba land, Gamache said. “One watchman was killed who is attached to the military house in Garkida. Police station was burnt, one house was partly destroyed.

Photo courtesy of CCEPI

Rebecca Dali of CCEPI comforts a widow who lost her husband and children in an attack by the Boko Haram insurgent group
Report from the Gwoza attack

Jauro Markus Gamache provided details about the insurgent attack on the town of Gwoza, which is located in northeastern Nigeria near the border with Cameroon.

“Greetings from people in refugee camps and myself,” he wrote, in part. “About three days now since Boko Haram took over the whole main town of Gwoza. This recent attack led the Emir of Gwoza to escape to unknown destination.... Some people thought that he was kidnapped by the group but we still have some hope that he is hiding somewhere in Maiduguri.

“They killed more than 100 people in Gwoza main town, mostly Muslims.” A Muslim man who rescued the EYN DCC (district) secretary for Gwoza, Shawulu T. Zigla, was killed by insurgents. “I was told by EYN church assistant pastor in Jos that they group killed that Muslim for doing that,” Gamache reported.

Among Christian leaders who were murdered was a woman leader from a COCIN church (formerly Church of Christ in Nigeria, now Church of Christ in All Nation).

Gwoza is near Gamache’s home village, and he added that an elderly many who was a distant relative, Zakariya Yakatank, also was killed during an attack on the nearby Limankara. “They killed four solders in Limankara, which helped my people to run away during the intense fight between the Boko Haram, military, mobile police.”

The insurgent group burned most of the homes in Gwoza including the Emir’s palace, and government buildings including the local government secretariat. “More houses belonging to Muslims were destroyed,” Gamache wrote.

Churches were destroyed in the attack. The local Muslim community had attempted to protect the Gwoza EYN Church and the Catholic Church which were close by, “but during this attack they [the insurgents] did not spare any body,” he added.

His report highlighted the needs of refugees, including a Muslim woman who called him “crying on phone because of fear and lack of enough food. One of her sons is sick and her husband is taking care of the sick in the hospital so she is left at home with the little ones.”

More Muslims from Gwoza have been fleeing into the town of Madagali, and more Christians from Madagali, Wagga, and other villages are “running further for safety,” he wrote. “All this took place after the government sent thousands of solders into the bush.”

Photo courtesy of EYN

During a presentation of relief goods to Muslim widows, donated through an interfaith group in Jos, an imam prays for peace.
Relief efforts include aid to Muslim widows

“Despite all the challenges we still meet to discuss how CCEPI through its Christian and Muslim Dialogue Peace Initiatives will bring peace in Nigeria,” Rebecca Dali wrote. She heads up CCEPI, a nonprofit organization that Dali founded in order to aid widows and orphans who have lost husbands and parents in the violence, as well as refugees and families who have been displaced.

CCEPI has continued to distribute relief goods to widows who have lost husbands--and often children--in attacks by the Boko Haram insurgents. The photos she provided with her report showed a roomful of people displaced by the attacks in the Dille and Chibok areas, and widows from Dille and Chibok who received aid from CCEPI.

In photos of car- and truckloads of relief goods for distribution, was a picture of a pick up truck loaded down with sewing machines to help widows earn a living.

Dali also provided photos of a meeting of Christian and Muslim women sponsored by CCEPI’s Christian Muslim Dialogue Peace Initiatives (CCMDPI).

An interfaith group in Jos has been sharing aid with Muslims affected by the violence, Gamache reported. “All the Muslim community I visited are really grateful for all the support from the Church of the Brethren because I always tell them the source of my salary, water project, donation to EYN in general, and your visits/meetings to Muslim communities.”

The interfaith group in Jos, called Lifeline Compassionate Global Initiatives, has delivered items to widows and the less privilege among the Muslim community. The group “is enjoying the cooperation of faithful Muslims to create public awareness to embrace peace,” Gamache reported.

In a set of photos that Gamache sent with his report, the chief imam of a Muslim community in Anguwan Rogo received a presentation from the interfaith group, and offered prayers for peace and for the two faiths to love one another.

He also sent pictures from a visit to refugee facilities on the outskirts of Abuja, which have been provided to refugee families with help from the EYN church in Abuja and its pastor, Musa Abdullahi Zuwarva. The pastor donated the place for the refugees to live, and Gamache is involved in supporting them.

Photo courtesy of EYN

A refugee family living on the outskirts of Abuja, with help from the EYN church in Abuja, poses for a picture with pastor Musa Abdullahi Zuwarva.
“We will support in putting what we can to help the refugees have a little comfort, more especially for the sake of children,” he said.

In the photos, two families are shown using an uncompleted building. The families fled from Gavva in Gwoza Local Government area near the eastern border with Cameroon, to Nassarawa State, and finally to Abuja, “running for life,” Gamache wrote.

“Both Muslims and Christians are always on the run. Since the Emir of Gwoza was killed many village heads, district heads are under attack.”

He added news of two prominent Nigerians targeted in Kano in late July, Sheik Dahiru Bauchi and former president of Nigeria Mohammed Buhari. “This has created mixed feelings to both Christians and Muslims, to where is this violence leading the country,” he wrote. “Sheik Dahiru Bauchi delivered a speech at Government House Kano on June 27, when the Governor of Kano Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso called us for prayers and mutual relationship among the interfaith workers. I was privileged to listen to Sheik Dahiru who always condemn the work of Boko Haram.”

Peace by peaceful means

In reflections which he titled, “Peace by Peaceful Means,” Gamache noted the Christian scriptures from Matthew 5:43-47, in which Jesus teaches about loving enemies, and Romans 12:18, and a Muslim text from Quran 45 that “also emphasized about forgiving and loving your enemies.”

“How do we transform our enemies to be our friends?” he asked. “Only by love and forgiveness. Islam and Christianity are a way of life that is believed to take you to heaven (Aljana) but...the two faiths have bad eggs who want to satisfy their emotions, madness, and personal frustration in life. The work of interfaith on the [Jos] Plateau has really helped me to understand the love from both sides.”

Source: 8/19/2014 Newsline

Why sing in worship? A reflection from Nigeria

In the midst of violence and distress in his nation, Zakariya Musa found time to write this reflection on the meaning of singing in church, and how music and praise bring hope. Musa works in communications for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and is pursuing a degree in communications at the University of Maiduguri:

“Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp” (Psalm 149:3, KJV).

Photo by Carol Smith

Directing the women's choir at the 2012 Majalisa or annual meeting of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN-the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The women's choir is accompanied by rhthym instruments like drums and gourds as well as instruments that use the reverberate sounds that can be made with clay pots.
Music is one of the things we admit in life on casual or serious occasions of human endeavor. Music, according to Webster's University Dictionary, is "the art of arranging tones in an orderly sequence so as to produce a unified and continuous composition." Researchers say music does not have any one concrete meaning, that it has different meanings for different people. For others, music is a hobby, a pastime.

The casual fan may learn about music, how to read music, how to sing, or how to play a musical instrument, but they do not have the all-encompassing passion a musician possesses. Music is a means of relaxation for some, while others simply enjoy listening to the sounds, melodies, and rhythms that music brings to their ears, minds, and hearts.

Singing is an accepted art form that is taught in most public and private schools. It can be a fun activity and a casual entertainment. To get engaged in music and singing requires fantastic coordination of fingers, hands, arms, lips, cheek, and facial muscles, in addition to control of the diaphragm, back, stomach, and chest muscles, which respond instantly to the sound the ear hears and the mind interprets.

The physical act of singing occurs as air passes through the larynx, throat, and mouth, and it's interesting to note that vocal resonance in singing involves seven areas of the human body: chest, tracheal tree, larynx, pharynx, oral cavity, nasal cavity, and sinus.

Music is history. Music usually reflects the environment and times of its creation, often even the country of its origin. Music is physical education, especially among youth who would take it as fun.

Most of all music is art. It allows a human being to take all these dry, technically boring (but difficult) techniques, and use them to create emotion.

The history of singing goes back to the earliest recordings of mankind (as early as 800 B.C.) and songs are believed to have been used even before the development of modern languages. In Western culture, singers were often restricted to only singing in churches until the 14th century. But it has been in practice long time ago in Africa, even before the introduction of Christianity and Islam.

In Nigeria, for example, singing took the stage during festivals, weddings, group farming, while grinding, at burials, and other occasions.

Photo by Carol Smith

EYN women's choir singing at 2012 Majalisa. The women's choir of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, is a striking and lively presence in worship services.
What does singing mean to church?

I have developed an interest in knowing what singing means to churches, and what people say about music, since it dominates most of the times during church services where all worshipers are participating. Church groups such as choirs, the women’s fellowship, gospel teams, youth bands, and other groups present songs at church services. Could this be to arouse interest and pleasure?

One pastor gave his testimony that he was convinced by the women’s fellowship singers on a good Sunday when the group sang in Hausa, “Bin Yesu Da Dadi” meaning “following Christ is nice,” backed by a traditional music instrument.

Many pastors, evangelists, deacons, and even church elders have passed through singing groups. Many have become preachers, church planters, and evangelists as a result of music or singing.

Some people see singing as part of church service. Song composers and instructors see it as an appropriate form or medium of worshiping and praising God, and as a medium of preaching the gospel. It removes boredom and makes the church service lively.

Youths see music and singing as a ministration, just as any other part of worship. It moves people, it connects them with God, and it brings liberty in worship. It prepares one’s heart to meet the Creator during the worship.

Today, youth sees churches that lack musical instruments as weak churches. This feeling has created conflict between youth and the elders in the church, to the extent of losing many youth from the so called weaker congregations to the congregations assumed to be stronger or more modern.

The power of singing in church cannot be overemphasized, because it means people are growing in the spiritual realm, feeling refreshed and liberated while singing. In many ways people tend to forget their sorrows. In Nigeria for instance, with the violence, killings, destructions, and threats, people open up joyfully together under the roof in worship when they sing.

We need to see music as part of worship and ministry. Appreciate and enhance music. Develop positive feelings about music and encourage those who are into it. Elders who see music as a modern thing need to accept the power of praise. The church should also be reminded not to forget their native songs and to emphasize their use to praise God, organize workshops for choristers and teach on the efficacy of singing praises to God, and encourage the youth by providing musical instrument for the church worship services.

-- Zakariya Musa serves in communications for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

Source: 8/19/2014 Newsline