Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Newsline Special: ‘EYN is severely damaged’ Nigerian Brethren leader reports

September 30, 2014

Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries this week have received new reports from Samuel Dali, president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

EYN closes 26 of 50 district councils, reports 3,038 members killed

Dali shared a report he gave to the Christian Association of Nigeria yesterday, Sept. 29, enumerating losses experienced by EYN and warning of the possibility of “genocide” of Christians in northern Nigeria. He reported that terrorist attacks on some villages including places well known to Brethren--Chibok, Garkida, Lassa, and more--are happening weekly, with little or no resistance from the available security agents.

“EYN is severely damaged by the terrorists in many ways,” Dali wrote in a follow up e-mail. “The whole Lardin Gabas, the historical center of EYN, has been almost destroyed. So, continue to pray so that the Lord can increase our faith and give the strength to bear the suffering.”

Up to the time of his report, “no one can tell you what exactly is the situation in the areas controlled by the Boko Haram fighters,” Dali wrote. “Since they took control of the areas, the people they have killed [are] still uncounted and not buried.”

He reported that “Gwoza, Madagali, Gulak, Michika, and Bazza are still under the control of the terrorists.”

Dali added that he has been traveling to visit and help families find safe places, and to attend meetings since the EYN Headquarters was evacuated in August. He signed his e-mail, “Yours...in deep pain.”

The EYN president’s report to the Christian Association of Nigeria enumerated the denomination’s losses:

“Today as I am speaking, 26 out of the 50 EYN District Church Councils, together with its 156 local church council or parishes, have been closed down. 70 out of the 156 local church councils and 21 local church branches have been burnt down completely. In addition over 2,287 houses belonging to our members have been burnt down included their properties such as food stuff. Also, we have on record: over 3,038 of our members who have so far been killed and 8 pastors that were also killed. In addition, 180 of our members have been kidnapped.”

As a result, Dali reported, 280 EYN pastors and evangelists are now displaced without work or any source of income to feed their families. They are among the 96, 000 Nigerian Brethren who have been displaced “from their ancestral native lands.” The displaced church members are now homeless, living as refugees in Cameroon or displaced in other parts of Nigerian including the states of Taraba, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, Plateau, Nasarawa, and Abuja.

The full report to the Christian Association of Nigeria:

Damages done to the EYN-Church of the Brethren by the Boko Haram in the Northeastern Nigeria: Presented to CAN by THE PRESIDENT OF THE EKKLESIYA YAN’UWA A NIGERIA, REV. DR. SAMUEL DANTE DALI, on the 29th September 2014

Distinguished members of CAN, it is with a deep pain and great sadness that I am presenting to this brief report on the damages done by Boko Haram on EYN-Church of the Brethren.

The EYN-Church of the Brethren was first established as a rural church at Garkida on the 17th of March, 1923, through the work of the Church of the Brethren missionaries from the United States of America [USA]. However, today, EYN is one of the predominant churches not only in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe States, but has also spread to major cities in Nigeria like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Kano, Jos, Kaduna, and Zaria. EYN is also an international church with branches in the Cameroon, Niger, and Togo.

In line with the tradition of her founding fathers, EYN-Church of the Brethren in Nigeria is also a member of a global historical peace churches whose main objective had been how to ensure justice and peaceful co-existence between Christians and Muslims in Northern Nigeria.

In spite of our peace loving nature, EYN church is the greatest single denomination that the Islamic fundamentalists, the so called Boko Haram group, has almost successfully wiped out of existence in many Local Government Areas of Borno, part of Yobe and Adamawa States. Today as I am speaking, 26 out of the 50 EYN District Church Councils, together with its 156 local church council or parishes, have been closed down. 70 out of the 156 local church councils and 21 local church branches have been burnt down completely. In addition over 2,287 houses belonging to our members have been burnt down included their properties such as food stuff.

Also, we have on record: over 3,038 of our members who have so far been killed and 8 pastors that were also killed. In addition, 180 of our members have been kidnapped including a pastor and pregnant wife of another pastor with three of her children were kidnapped. It may also interest you to know that 178 out of the total Chibok school girls that were kidnapped are children of EYN members.

As a result of this mayhem, 280 of our pastors and evangelists are now displaced without work and any sources of income to feed their families. Also, 96, 000 of our members including women and children have been displaced from their ancestral native lands. The displaced members are now homeless, living as refugees in Cameroon and other parts of some States like Taraba, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, Plateau, Nasarawa and Abuja.

The destruction of properties and the kidnapping of children, women, church leaders, and school girls have increased to potentially leading to genocide of Christians in Northern Nigeria in general and in particular, the members of EYN community in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa States.

The terrorist attacks on some villages such as Gwoza area, Madagali, Gulak, Chibok, Damatru, Dambowa, Garkida, Biu, Kwajafa District, Shaffa, Shedufu, Kwayakusar, Gombi, Zurin in Hong Mubi, Delle, Lassa, Michika, and Shaffa are becoming weekly and endless, with no or little resistance from the available security agents. The people living in these areas are living in fear and under constant threat of fresh attack.

To make things worse, these people cannot go to their farms, as those who attempt were killed or chased away. Thousands of their children cannot go to school and that means the future of these children may be lost.

The records of the recent attack on Madagali, Gulak, Delle, Lassa, Michika, Bazza, Husara, Shaffa Shedufu, and Tarku are not yet part of this sad story. Some of these areas are still under the control of the terrorists and their dead bodies are yet to be buried.

My dear brothers and sister, what amounts of compensation or relief can anyone provide to comfort these communities? Maybe the most important questions should be when will this madness stop? What is Nigeria’s government doing to protect and save the lives of the remnant? And what are we doing as national and global members of Christ’s body? May God have mercy on us, the victims and the victors.

-- To contribute to the relief effort in Nigeria, give to the Emergency Disaster Fund online at www.brethren.org/edf or by mail to Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120. To contribute to the Church of the Brethren mission in Nigeria give online at www.brethren.org/nigeria.

Source: 9/30/2014 Newsline Special

Friday, September 26, 2014

Newsline: September 26, 2014

NEWS UPCOMING EVENTS PERSONNEL BRETHREN BITS

Disaster grant of $100,000 is directed to Nigeria

Photo courtesy of EYN/Markus Gamache

EYN staff visit the land for a pilot project site, where a Care Center is being built for refugees
Brethren Disaster Ministries is directing a grant of $100,000 to provide for the basic needs of displaced Nigerians and other needs in Nigeria, where members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) as well as families of EYN denominational staff are among the thousands of people who have fled violence.

The grant comes from the Church of the Brethren Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF). Gifts to support this disaster relief effort can be made online at www.brethren.org/edf . Gifts to support the Nigeria mission of the Church of the Brethren can be made at www.brethren.org/nigeria.

In related news, some EYN denominational staff reportedly have been returning to the area of the EYN headquarters, which was mostly evacuated more than three weeks ago when Boko Haram insurgents made swift advances to secure territory. Recently, EYN leaders have been visiting makeshift refugee camps where thousands of church members have fled seeking safety.

This week, news reports from Nigeria are quoting Nigerian army claims to have killed the Boko Haram leader and hundreds of insurgents in fierce fighting near Maiduguri. There also are claims that hundreds of Boko Haram fighters have surrendered. A BBC report, however, warns “the claims are impossible to verify.” In the meantime, other reports indicate continued insurgent attacks and killings in communities in both Nigeria and Cameroon.

Grant extends aid to thousands of displaced

The grant of $100,000 continues the Church of the Brethren response to the relentless violence in northeast Nigeria, where people have suffered displacement, killings, kidnappings and property destruction.

“As the largest church body in this area, Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria leadership report that more EYN churches and members have been impacted than any other denomination,” said the grant request. “This now includes 7 of the 51 EYN districts and parts of other districts that are no longer functioning as they and have been overrun by Boko Haram. As a result of this violence, over 650,000 people are displaced, including as many as 45,000 EYN members.”

In addition, “the stories of more horrific atrocities are being reported,” the document said. “Many have fled to the mountains for refuge, while in other settings as many as 70 people are living in one temporary shelter intended for two families.”

Brethren Disaster Ministries and Global Mission and Service staff have outlined a three-stage response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis, but a swiftly changing and fluid situation has caused changes to plans made just a few weeks ago. For example, a grant of $20,000 given at the end of the summer was intended to support a pilot relocation project. However, with realization that the ongoing violence requires a more rapid response, the large $100,000 grant has been given sooner than expected in order to move forward.

Details of the large-scale disaster response plan and some implementing partners continue to be developed, but the following phases have been announced:
  • Phase 1: Emergency Response, focuses on providing for basic human survival in the midst of the emergency.  This includes the building of care centers for displaced families, temporary shelters, rent or purchase of land, providing of household supplies, emergency food rations, tools for agriculture, transportation, and development of risk management/security for EYN focused on violence avoidance through effective planning and early evacuation.
  • Phase 2: Recovery, will focus on the emotional and spiritual needs of Nigerian leadership and families, and peace building efforts within churches and communities. This will include helping to expand the EYN Peace Program, providing trauma and resiliency training to pastors and church leaders, financial support for displaced pastors, spiritual care and worship opportunities in Care Centers and other locations where families are displaced.
  • Phase 3: Rebuilding Communities, will focus on long-term recovery and helping families become self-supporting again. At this point in the conflict it is difficult to know the full scope of needs for rebuilding, but this will likely include transitioning temporary Care Centers into permanent communities, and rebuilding homes, churches, water sources, and other community needs in damaged hometowns.
Gifts to support the disaster relief effort in Nigeria are received at www.brethren.org/edf or may be mailed to the Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120. Gifts to support the Nigeria mission of the Church of the Brethren are received at www.brethren.org/nigeria or may be mailed to Church of the Brethren, Attn: Global Mission and Service, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.

Source: 9/26/2014 Newsline

EYN leaders visit refugee camps, pilot relocation project starts

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Dali

A displaced family in Nigeria, with Rebecca Dali who has been one of the Nigerian Brethren visiting the makeshift camps where people have fled the violence in northeast Nigeria. Dali writes on Facebook that this rough shelter is the place where a woman and her four children are making their home at the moment.
Over the past couple of weeks, leaders and staff of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) have shared about the hardships faced by Brethren and others fleeing the violence in northeast Nigeria, and the struggle of EYN and its leadership in the midst of the crisis. The news has come through reports to Church of the Brethren staff in the US, and piecemeal through brief e-mails, calls, texts, and Facebook posts.

Violence in recent weeks has centered around Michika, north of the city of Mubi close to the border with Cameroon, forcing thousands to flee to the town of Yola where EYN leaders have reported makeshift camps of thousands of displaced people and a desperate food situation.

In the area around Maiduguri--a large city in northeast Nigeria--Boko Haram seizure of several community and the ensuring fierce fighting between the Nigerian army and the insurgents have caused many thousands of people to seek refugee in Maiduguri. A recent statement from the Catholic Archbishop of Maiduguri also indicated food shortages there.

Also reported by EYN leaders via Facebook posts and photos, was a meeting last week in the capital city Abuja aimed at interfaith cooperation and conversation with Muslim leaders as well as the wider Christian ecumenical community.

EYN staff have been among those losing loved ones in the violence of recent days. Family members of one EYN staff person were killed in a Boko Haram attack on a hospital, and after coming out of hiding to find food. Another EYN leader lost a nephew who had been in the army and was part of the fighting near Maiduguri.

Progress on pilot relocation project

EYN staff liaison Markus Gamache has reported progress in the pilot project to purchase land to relocate displaced people in central Nigeria. As of last week, a fenced plot of land had been given to construct metal houses for temporary use.

A blessing for the pilot project was held on Sept. 20 with Filibus Gwama, a former president of EYN, joining Gamache at the site to bless the first group of youth helping to receive people who are relocated there.

“More of these metal housing is needed now since mud blocks are not possible because of rain,” Gamache wrote. “We cannot serve all people, only the lucky ones get in here. We have identified orphans and widows from Gwoza  up to Michika who are ready to occupy this kind of facility. Families are joining other families in the bush to wait until when construction is done for them.”

In his most recent update on the project, received late last week, Gamache reported:

“The relocation project is necessary to give people hope and little rest [from] running every day. Helps from different sources [are] still not sufficient. The relocation project is just starting but it seems the help needs to be expanded because of the pressure from families that want to completely leave the entire North East....

“Our biggest challenge at the moment is how to reach the most in need camps. Some of these camps are not easy to access being surrounded by BH [Boko Haram]. Children are dying of different ailments, old people left at home and those that were on sick bed before the attack are also dying one after the other. Families that are separated are worried [about] their families members, more especially mothers are much worried of their young children that might have fallowed another family and no connection to know about their well being. Some people are being killed in the process of moving from one camp to another in order to trace their younger ones.”

For more about the Church of the Brethren mission in Nigeria and about EYN, go to www.brethren.org/nigeria. To help contribute to the relief effort, give to the Global Mission and Service program through the donate button on the Nigeria page of the website, or give to the Emergency Disaster Fund at www.brethren.org/edf.

Source: 9/26/2014 Newsline

General secretary and Public Witness staff reiterate support for nonviolent measures in Syria and Iraq, CPTer comments from Iraqi Kurdistan

In a week when US President Barack Obama has announced new air strikes on Islamic State in Syria by a coalition of the US military and several Arab nations, Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger and the denomination’s Office of Public Witness have reiterated a commitment to nonviolent means of change in Syria and Iraq.

In related news, Church of the Brethren member Peggy Faw Gish who serves with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraqi Kurdistan also has published reflections on the military campaign in Iraq.

Photo courtesy of Stan Noffsinger

General secretary Stan Noffsinger (at right) with a Russian Orthodox representative at a consultation on Syria held in Armenia on June 11-12, 2014. Fr. Dimitri Safonov represented the Moscow Patriarchate Department for Interreligious Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, while Noffsinger was one of the American church leaders to attend the gathering.
Ecumenical groups urge nonviolent means of change

Noffsinger was one of the religious leaders who have held three international ecumenical consultations on the crisis in Syria over the past months, organized by the World Council of Churches. He also was one of the American church leaders to sign an ecumenical letter to President Obama in late August urging the United States to lead out in nonviolent measures in Iraq and Syria.

“Stop US bombing in Iraq to prevent bloodshed, instability, and the accumulation of grievances....” headed up the letter’s list of eight nonviolent ways the United States and the international community may engage with the crisis. The letter, reported in Newsline on Sept. 2 (see www.brethren.org/news/2014/us-religious-leaders-wcc-statements-on-iraq.html) suggested “better, more effective, more healthy, and more humanizing ways to protect civilians and to engage this conflict.”

The list continued with seven more items: to provide “robust” humanitarian assistance to those fleeing the violence; engage with the UN and all political and religious leaders in the area on “diplomatic efforts for a lasting political situation for Iraq” and “a political settlement to the crisis in Syria”; support community based nonviolent resistance strategies; strengthen financial sanctions against armed actors in the region through measures such as disruption of the Islamic State’s oil revenue; bring in trained unarmed civilian protection organizations; uphold an arms embargo on all parties to the conflict; and support civil society efforts to build peace, reconciliation, and accountability at the community level.

Noffsinger reaffirmed the letter this week, saying, “As a historic peace church we have to evaluate the situation very carefully. This is about the wellbeing of the whole planet, not just about American interests.” He reported continuing contacts from ecumenical colleagues, church leaders in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, who are standing by the ecumenical commitment to seek the wellbeing of the region through nonviolent means.

In Washington, D.C., the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness continues to work on this issue with the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy, which helped organize the letter that Noffsinger signed. Director Nate Hosler echoed Noffsinger’s perspective.

“Here in Washington, lawmakers are debating how much the United States should get involved without appearing to give much thought to the long-term consequences of such an intervention,” Hosler said. “While the situation is certainly dire, intervening militarily in Iraq and Syria not only affects today’s reality, but sows the seeds for more violence and instability in the future.”

Photo by CPT

Peggy Gish serving with Christian Peacemaker Teams
CPTer issues hard-hitting commentary on military action

Gish titled her reflections on the US air strikes in Iraq, “The new military intervention in Iraq--on not repeating what has not worked.” The hard-hitting commentary was originally posted on her personal blog, and was published by CPTNet this week.

Acknowledging that many Americans feel President Obama is “finally doing something” and that many people in Iraq are generally hopeful that the bombing campaign will stop the militant fighters calling themselves the “Islamic State,” she stated a warning that “I believe Obama’s plan will not diminish global terrorism; it will only expand and strengthen it.”

She noted that the Islamic State’s ability to capture areas of Iraq “was possible because the US had destroyed its society and supported the Shia government that excluded Sunni populations” and that “the US and Iraqi forces bombed and destroyed whole neighborhoods and cities in the name of anti-terrorism, generating more anger toward America,” she also noted that “the US failed to support the progressive, mostly nonviolent, uprisings, around the country, against government abuse and corruption.

“Throughout the years of occupation, it was clear to us that US military actions in Iraq were not really directed at protecting the Iraqi people, but for protecting American personnel and US economic and military interests in Iraq and the Middle East,” she wrote, in part. “Each time the US puts forth an alarmist scenario, and tells us there is no other way but military action to stop an evil force, intelligent people--who know that our wars have been robbing our society of money for human needs and giving it to corporations--are once again seduced by fear.”

Her list of “strong non-military measures” echoed much of the list in the ecumenical letter to President Obama, including urging to stop the airstrikes, “since they serve to strengthen the extremist movements”; deal with underlying problems that fuel extremism and terrorism; develop political solutions to the crisis such as pressuring the Iraqi government to “reverse years of anti-Sunni sectarianism” and in Syria, to “push the UN to restart real negotiations to end the civil war, bringing everyone involved to the table--nonviolent activists, women, refugees, armed rebels, and regional and global players,” among others.

Find Gish’s reflection in full at www.cpt.org or on her blog, http://plottingpeace.wordpress.com.

Source: 9/26/2014 Newsline

Global Mission executive returns from visit to Democratic Republic of Congo

Photo by Jay Wittmeyer

Baptism held in Lake Tanganyika
Global Mission and Service executive director Jay Wittmeyer spent several days visiting the fledgling Brethren group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), returning on Sept. 18. Wittmeyer flew into Bujumbura, Burundi, and then traveled overland into the Congo, first to Uvira in South Kivu and then south to Fizi and Ngovi.

He reported that the self-identified Brethren group in the DRC now has grown to include seven congregations, under the overall leadership of Ron Lubungo. Wittmeyer participated in a two-day strategic planning workshop that helped the community identify its needs and list out its priorities over the next three years.

During his visit to central Africa, Wittmeyer and Lubongo also visited some Quaker congregations and leaders in Rwanda and Burundi. These groups and leaders have been partnering in peacemaking and agriculture initiatives that focus on Twa (pygmy) people and have been supported by the Church of the Brethren.

A high point of the trip, Wittmeyer said, was participating in the baptism of five new church members in Lake Tanganyika.

A link to an online photo album from the trip will be made available in an upcoming issue of Newsline.

Source: 9/26/2014 Newsline

‘Side by Side: Imitating Christ’s Humility’ is 2015 workcamp theme

The Workcamp office announces the theme for the 2015 Church of the Brethren Workcamp season: “Side by Side: Imitating Christ’s Humility” (Philippians 2:1-8).

Philippians 2:1-8 teaches the importance of living in community and putting one another’s interests above one’s own. In Philippians, Paul writes about Christ’s perfect example of humility, which immediately follows a call to communion with one another.

The 2015 workcamp curriculum will focus on how to serve others humbly, as Christ taught, to become more like-minded and foster meaningful relationships. The daily themes of community, service, faithfulness, prayer, renewal, and light will reflect aspects of faith that enable humble, community-based living.

More information about the 2015 workcamp schedule, dates, locations, and fees will be made available in upcoming months.

-- Theresa Ford is an assistant coordinator for the 2015 workcamp season, working alongside co-assistant coordinator Hannah Shultz. They are serving in the Workcamp office through Brethren Volunteer Service. Emily Tyler is the coordinator of Workcamps and BVS Recruitment.

Source: 9/26/2014 Newsline

Webinar on urban mission offered under title ‘Telling the Truth and Shaming the Devil’

“Telling the Truth and Shaming the Devil: A Postcolonial Take on Urban Mission in the 21st Century,” is the title of an Oct. 9 webinar jointly sponsored by the Church of the Brethren, Baptist Mission Society, Baptists Together, Bristol Baptist College, and Urban Expression UK.

The online workshop will offer an assessment of urban mission in the 21st century “by means of a Black theological analysis, offering critical reflections on the challenges of undertaking urban mission and the post-colonial realities to be found across the global north, where issues of plurality and power abound, within the all-enveloping shadow of empire,” said an announcement of the event from Stan Dueck, director of Transforming Practices for the Church of the Brethren.

The presenter will be Anthony Reddie, professor of Christian theology at Bristol Baptist College in England and a coordinator for community learning. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history, and a doctorate in education and theology, from the University of Birmingham. He has written more than 60 essays and articles on Christian Education and Black theology and is author or editor of 15 books including “Is God Color Blind? Insights from Black Theology for Christian Ministry” (SPCK, 2009) and “Churches, Blackness, and Contested Multiculturalism” co-edited with R. Drew Smith and William Ackah (Macmillan, 2014). He also has edited “Black Theology,” an international academic periodical.

The webinar date and time are Thursday, Oct. 9, 2:30-3:30 p.m. (Eastern time). Register at www.brethren.org/webcasts. Attendance is free but donations are appreciated. Ministers may receive 0.1 continuing education unit for attending the live event online. For more information contact Stan Dueck at sdueck@brethren.org.

Source: 9/26/2014 Newsline

Lowell Flory to retire from Bethany Seminary

Lowell Flory, executive director of institutional advancement and gift planning at Bethany Theological Seminary, will retire on March 31, 2015. Flory has served in this capacity at Bethany since July 2004, overseeing fund-raising, donor relations, planned giving, communications, and alumni/ae relations. He previously served as Bethany’s director of gift planning, beginning in July 2000.

As of January 1, 2015, Flory will move to half-time in his current position as part of a transitional period. He will focus on administrative duties, relinquishing most travel responsibilities.

During his tenure, Flory gave leadership to two major fundraising campaigns, both well surpassing the original goals. The completion of Inspired by the Spirit-Educating for Ministry coordinated with the celebration of the seminary’s centennial in 2005-06, to which Flory also gave direction. The Reimagining Ministries campaign concluded this past June. He also expanded the seminary’s advancement staff, contributed to the launch of the seminary’s current “Wonder and Word” magazine, taught seminary courses on leadership, and co-led the Advanced Foundations in Church Leadership program, a continuing education track offered through the Brethren Academy’s Sustaining Pastoral Excellence program from 2003-2013.

Flory began his association with Bethany on its board of trustees in 1986, then served as board chair from 1992-1996. It was during these four years that Bethany closed its Oak Brook, Ill., campus, relocated to Richmond, Ind., in a cooperative venture with Earlham School of Religion, and constructed a new facility on the Earlham College campus. While on the board, Flory was able to welcome the first students to Bethany’s new location; his retirement comes as the seminary recognizes 20 years in Richmond.

“In Lowell’s long-standing relationship with the seminary as a member of the board and the administration, he has displayed a strong commitment to having Bethany be a place where those of different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives can live, study, and worship together,” said Jeff Carter, president of Bethany. “Via extensive travel and bridge-building, Lowell has invested his time deepening relationships with alumni/ae and supporters to make Bethany a first thought in theological education and a resource for the Church of the Brethren. We give thanks for his many years of service and wish him well in his retirement.”

-- Jenny Williams is director of communications and alumni/ae relations at Bethany Theological Seminary.

Source: 9/26/2014 Newsline

Cori Hahn resigns from Zigler Hospitality Center at Brethren Service Center

Cori Hahn has tendered her resignation as hospitality coordinator at the Zigler Hospitality Center, located at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Her last day at the hospitality center will be Nov. 14.

Hahn began her work at the Brethren Service Center in Sept. 2007 as the conference coordinator for the New Windsor Conference Center. She also held a part-time position in human resources and in Aug. 2012 was promoted to hospitality coordinator of Zigler Hospitality Center. While in this position, she provided steady leadership during the transition from the New Windsor Conference Center to the Zigler Hospitality Center. Her dedication to quality of customer service and personal attention to detail has been appreciated by guests and staff, alike.

She has accepted a position as park manager at the Palms Estates of Highland County in Lorida, Fla.

Source: 9/26/2014 Newsline

Brethren bits

 Sighting along the plane: Mohican Church youth group help  out at Toms River project site
Brethren Disaster Ministries has posted a Facebook photo album from the week when a youth group from Mohican Church of the Brethren in Ohio volunteered at the disaster rebuilding project site at Toms River, N.J. “Mohican CoB Youth Group rock out a house in a week--June 9-13, 2014! From decking to trusses,” read the Facebook post. Find more pictures at www.facebook.com/bdm.cob.
 The frame is up! Mohican Church youth volunteer at Toms River disaster rebuilding site
  • Correction:  Newsline previously gave an incorrect link for a flier and registration information for “The Book of Job and Brethren Tradition.” This continuing education event sponsored by the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center, Elizabethtown (Pa.) College Department of Religious Studies, and Bethany Theological Seminary, takes place at the college on Nov. 5. Find the correct link at www.etown.edu/programs.  
  • Church of the Brethren program volunteers Linda and Robert Shank are returning this fall to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) to teach for a ninth semester at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST). From the Global Mission and Service office comes this prayer request: “Pray for health and energy as they continue English and agriculture instruction.” Find daily prayers for other mission workers and areas of Brethren mission work around the world in the Global Prayer Guide at www.brethren.org/partners.
  • Northern Indiana District is giving thanks for the service of interim district executive minister Carol Spicher Waggy, who closed out her term of service with the district on Sept. 20. She began as interim district executive in January 2013. “We are grateful for the ways that Carol facilitated our transition to a permanent DE, but also for the faithfulness, commitment, and compassion which she has shared for years in the service of Christ and the church,” said a note from Rosanna McFadden, District Board chair. There was a recognition of Spicher Waggy’s service at the district conference on Sept. 20.
  • The Church of the Brethren seeks candidates for a director level position in Congregational Life Ministries. This full-time salaried position is located at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and is available in January 2014. Congregational Life Ministries is in a staffing transition and seeks a gifted and dynamic colleague to sustain a variety of commitments. The director will have comprehensive oversight and responsibility for planning the biennial National Older Adult Conference (NOAC). Over the course of the two year cycle of the event, approximately one half of the director’s time is committed to NOAC. With the other half time in the portfolio, the director will provide leadership in one or more of the following areas: children and families; disabilities, mental health, child protection and domestic violence; aging; intergenerational ministries; church planting; deacon ministries; publications editing. Final determination of work responsibilities will be made by the Executive Director of Congregational Life Ministries in consultation with the General Secretary. Required skills and knowledge include grounding in Church of the Brethren heritage, theology, and polity; ability to articulate and operate out of the vision of the Church of the Brethren; experience relevant to the areas of responsibility, project management, group facilitation, work as part of a team, public speaking, and organizational best practices. A bachelor’s degree is required, with a master’s degree in a related field preferred. Ordination is preferred. Applications will be reviewed beginning Oct. 20 and thereafter on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Request the application packet by contacting the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; 800-323-8039 ext. 367; humanresources@brethren.org. The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
  • The Church of the Brethren seeks to fill two temporary positions located at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.: temporary full-time baler, and temporary full-time box car helper. Both positions work within the Material Resources department which processes, warehouses, and distributes relief goods on behalf of a variety of ecumenical and humanitarian organizations.
         The baler supports the work of Material Resources by using a baler to bale quilts, folding quilts, filling tables, lifting boxes, and assisting with cardboard baling and other warehouse duties. The preferred candidate must be age 18 or older, able to use baling equipment, able to lift up to 65 pounds, and able to stack bales three high on pallets. A high school diploma or the equivalent is required.
         The box car helper is responsible for loading and unloading boxes from train cars and trailers, working mostly outside with some warehouse duties included. The preferred candidate will have experience assisting with loading and unloading train cars and trailers, must be able to lift a limit of 65 pounds, must work well with a team and be reliable and flexible.
         Applications will be received and reviewed beginning immediately until the positions are filled. Request the application packet and complete job description by contacting the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; 800-323-8039 ext. 367; humanresources@brethren.org. The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
  • Orientation for Unit 307 of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) will be held from Sept. 28-Oct. 17 at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The 17 new volunteers come from half a dozen states in the US as well as Germany. During the orientation there will be sessions on diversity, peacemaking, spirituality, conflict resolution, homelessness, globalization, and other challenging issues that affect the world today. The volunteers will participate in workdays in the local community, at the Brethren Service Center, and in Harrisburg, Pa. For more information about BVS, please visit www.brethren.org/bvs.
  • An invitation to a teleconference on “Advocating for a just peace in Palestine and Israel--What can US Christians do?” comes from the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness. The event is offered through the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy on Oct. 1 from 8-9 p.m. (Eastern time). Dial 866-740-1260 and use participant access code 2419972#. The event will take a look at recent events, notes the announcement. “The aftermath of 50 days of fighting has left devastation in Gaza which still struggles under a suffocating blockade. More and more land continues to be confiscated for expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The occupation of Palestinian lands continues unchecked. Israelis and Palestinians both suffer from the lack of a peaceful resolution.  Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers look to the international community for support in their efforts to change the status quo and work toward a just peace. With the breakdown in peace talks, what direction should U.S. policy take? How can persons of faith be part of the solution through their public policy advocacy? Presenters are Catherine Gordon, representative for International Issues for the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness; Mike Merryman-Lotze, Israel-Palestine program director for the American Friends Service Committee; and Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach, director of Mennonite Central Committee US Washington Office.
  • Several new blog posts are available on the Brethren Blog, including stories and pictures from this summer’s Youth Peace Travel Team, reflections on the recent work of the Office of Public Witness, more about the “Dunker Punks” movement that started at National Youth Conference, and stories from Brethren Volunteer Service. Find the blog at http://blog.brethren.org.
  • As part of the 70th anniversary observance of Heifer International, York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., will host a Beyond Hunger Breakfast on Friday, Oct. 9, at 9 a.m. The breakfast will be followed by a presentation from Oscar CastaƱeda, vice president of Heifer’s Americas Programs.
  • District conferences are coming up this weekend in Middle Pennsylvania District at Camp Blue Diamond in Petersburg, Pa., on Sept. 26-27 (see more below); and in Pacific Northwest District at Peace Church of the Brethren in Portland, Ore., on Sept. 26-28.
  • On Sept. 26-27, Middle Pennsylvania District and Camp Blue Diamond will celebrate with a big weekend on the theme “Blessed” that combines the 2014 District Conference and the camp’s 34th annual Heritage Fair. Events will take place at Camp Blue Diamond near Petersburg, Pa. The conference will begin on Friday evening with a dinner, followed by a celebration of Camp Blue Diamond’s 50th Birthday. Saturday will be the day for the Heritage Fair, beginning with breakfast and continuing with music, food, fellowship, children’s activities, demonstrations, and auctions. All proceeds will support the ministries of Middle Pennsylvania District and Camp Blue Diamond. The District Conference will continue on Saturday afternoon, held under the tent from 2-5 p.m. Special offerings this year will be received for the EYN Compassion Fund, the Prince Gallitzin Park Ministry, and Pennies for Witness.
  • On Oct. 4, Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren is hosting a Middle Pennsylvania District Disaster Response Ham and Turkey Benefit Dinner, from 4-7 p.m. Cost is $10 for adults, $5 for children.
  • Camp Eder in Fairfield, Pa., is holding its 36th Annual Fall Festival on Oct. 18, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. “Things to do” include a meal of pit-roasted pork and turkey, a Live Auction starting at 9:30 a.m., live music by the C.B. Pickers, apple butter making, a petting zoo, craft vendors, glass blowing demonstrations, children’s crafts and games, a bounce house, a food court and bake sale, and more. “Fall Festival is a Harvest and Heritage celebration designed for the whole family,” said the announcement.
  • Also on Oct. 18, Camp Placid will host its Annual Fall Festival. Camp Placid is an outdoor ministry center of Southeastern District, located near Blountville, Tenn. The festival features events such as a Cornhole tournament, fishing tournament, story telling, children’s activities, as well as sales of handcrafts, food, theme baskets, and a silent auction. Items are donated by Church of the Brethren congregations and local businesses. Proceeds go to the Camp Placid Operating Fund. To contribute to the silent auction, contact 423-340-2890 or ctcoulthard@gmail.com . To set up a booth as a vendor at the festival, contact 423-340-1501 or mlcoulthrd@gmail.com .
  • “It’s coming! Plan now to attend,” said an announcement of the annual Gathering in Western Plains District. The Gathering is Oct. 24-26 in Topeka, Kan., with the theme “Blessed, Broken, and Inspired.” Registration is online at www.wpcob.org. Early bird registrations are due Oct. 13.
  • The Bittersweet Gospel Band will tour from Oct. 22-26 in four Church of the Brethren districts: Northern Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, Middle Pennsylvania, and Mid-Atlantic.  The schedule for Worship Concerts is: Oct. 22, 7 p.m., at Dupont Church of the Brethren in Ohio; Oct. 23, 7 p.m, at Ashland Dickey Church of the Brethren in Ohio; Oct. 24, 7 p.m., at Freeburg Church of the Brethren in Ohio; Oct. 25, 7 p.m., at Maple Spring Church of the Brethren in Pennsylvania; Oct. 26, 10:30 a.m., at New Enterprise Church of the Brethren in Pennsylvania; and Oct. 26, 4 p.m., at Manor Church of the Brethren in Maryland. The Bittersweet Gospel Band, made up of Church of the Brethren musicians, uses a variety of music styles to communicate a message of hope for all ages. Band members on this tour will include: Gilbert Romero (Los Angeles, Calif.); Scott Duffey (Staunton, Va.); Trey Curry (Staunton, Va.); Leah Hileman (East Berlin, Pa.); David Sollenberger (North Manchester, Ind.); Jose Mendoza (Roanoke, Va.); Andy Duffey (New Enterprise, Pa.). The band's ministry began as an outreach project of Bittersweet Ministries, as a tool to reach out to young people to combat a drug and alcohol culture, and now it touches on a variety of justice issues and serves as a ministry of spiritual renewal. Gilbert Romero and Scott Duffey write most of the music. More information can be found at bittersweetgospelband.blogspot.com and on Facebook.
  • Eight more governments are ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty during this week’s high-level meetings at the United Nations, reports a release from the World Council of Churches (WCC). “The latest actions mean that 53 governments, including several lobbied by the member churches of the WCC, have ratified the new treaty. The treaty will now come into effect by the end of 2014.” Armed conflict in the Middle East has preoccupied world leaders gathered in New York, the release noted. “To watch the news is to be reminded daily of how sorely a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty is needed,” said WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit. “Human life and human dignity, God’s great gifts to each of us, are being battered by armed violence in many places. Controlling the arms trade is a requirement for stopping the terror and violence in the world today.” Church advocates led by the WCC have lobbied for a strong and effective ATT with up to 50 governments for the past four years, often in collaboration with civil society partners. The ecumenical campaign has a focus on Africa, given the number of countries and communities suffering the consequences of the illicit arms trade in the region. In the Middle East, “recent research in Iraq and Syria shows that weapons made in the United States and China are being used by the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to a report by Conflict Armament Research,” the release added.
Source: 9/26/2014 Newsline

Credits

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 Jan Fischer Bachman, Ben Bear, Deborah Brehm, Stan Dueck, Scott Duffey, Theresa Ford, Markus Gamache, Peggy Faw Gish, Bryan Hanger, Nathan Hosler, Nancy Miner, Stan Noffsinger, Emily Tyler, Jenny Williams, Roy Winter, Jay Wittmeyer, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Newsline: September 16, 2014

NEWS FEATURE BRETHREN BITS

Peace Day events are planned by Church of the Brethren and other groups

Photo courtesy of Lacey Community Church

A peace banner hangs at Lacey Community Church for Peace Day 2014. The church in Lacey, Washs., is reaffirming a commitment to plant seeds, affirm values, dream dreams, and practice peace. Throughout the month of September a reflection series on conflict resolution and nonviolent communication helped put peacemaking into a daily context. Pastor Howard made paper-cut banners for the sanctuary, a visual affirmation of the congregation’s commitment to seeking peace.
Church of the Brethren congregations and other groups in many different communities are planning worship services, witnesses, prayer vigils, and even theater performances to celebrate the International Day of Prayer for Peace on Sunday, Sept. 21.

Sept. 21 was set aside as a day for Christians to pray for peace by the World Council of Churches, in connection with an International Day of Peace instituted by the United Nations. A Peace Day campaign by On Earth Peace helps connect the Church of the Brethren and others to the annual event, offers resources, and collects an online listing of events and groups that are participating. Find out more at http://peacedaypray.tumblr.com.

Here are just a few of the Peace Day events in the works:
  • Gettysburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren is hosting a performance of “Peace, Pies, and Prophets” by Ted Swartz’s theater company Ted and Co., on Sunday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. The show is called “I’d Like to Buy an Enemy” and the evening will be interspersed with a pie auction benefiting Christian Peacemaker Teams and Gettysburg C.A.R.E.S. Said an announcement in the Southern Pennsylvania District newsletter, “You will be entertained by a hilarious and poignant satire that explores peace, justice, and the American way--starring Ted Swartz and Tim Ruebke. This thought-provoking show allows us to laugh at ourselves, while engaging us to think about how to work for peace and justice worldwide.” Admission is free, with opportunities for free will offerings. Contact the Gettysburg church at 717-334-5066.
  • The Witness Commission of Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind., is sponsoring a Peace Pole Walk at 3 p.m. on the afternoon of Sept. 21. In addition, the congregation is connecting the Peace Day event with an opportunity to give to the EYN Compassion Fund to aid the Nigerian Brethren during a time of violence and suffering. The church newsletter announced that its Fall Quarterly Offering will support Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, with information provided in the Sept. 21 bulletin. The offering was brought by the Witness Commission and supported by the Stewards Commission and the church board.
  • Peace Day at Monroeville Church of the Brethren in Western Pennsylvania District will include a special worship focus on peace at 11 a.m. To close the service, the congregation will dedicate a new Peace Pole, and share a potluck.
  • Union Center Church of the Brethren near Nappanee, Ind., and other Indiana congregations will take part in an ecumenical and community observance outdoors near the church, beginning at 2 p.m. on Sept. 21. The event will be built around the text Matthew 25:31-40 in honor of the alternative service of the late Carlyle Frederick, a conscientious objector who was part of the Starvation Experiment during World War II. Contact frankramirez@embarqmail.com.
  • Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren hosts “Unity in the Community” on Saturday, Sept. 20, from 5-8 p.m., an interfaith celebration on the theme, “Sharing Water, Sharing Air, Sharing the Earth in Peace.” The community is invited to share prayers for peace, to share a dish at the fellowship supper following the service, and to contribute non-perishable items for the food pantries at ACTS and Northern Virginia Family Service (SERVE).
  • At Bridgewater (Va.) College, Peace Day will be observed at 4 p.m. on Sept. 21, according to an announcement from Shenandoah District. The event on the campus mall will focus on the theme, “Visions and Dreams of Building Peace.” A peace vigil, a program, and prayers, will begin on Dinkel Avenue and conclude at the Peace Pole at the Alexander Mack Library. The Carter Center is the alternate location in case of rain. Find a bulletin insert at http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1110837621104-390/2014PeaceDayBulletin.pdf.
  • At Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, Peace Day will be observed with an environmental walk across campus on Sunday, Sept. 21. The International Peace Day Excursion begins a week of environmental and social justice events at the college. The walk will leave from the college's Brossman Commons Terrace at 1:45 p.m. led by David Bowne, associate professor of biology. Subsequent events during the week will focus on social justice, the environment, and poverty.
  • “Meet us on Independence Mall, Philadelphia, for International Peace Day observance, Saturday, September 20!” said an invitation from Heeding God’s Call. The initiative against gun violence in America’s cities is joining in the Peace Day Philly observance, an “Interfaith Service to End Gun Violence,” at the People's Plaza, Liberty Bell Center, starting at 3 p.m. The service will mourn the lives lost to gun violence, call for action to make the city safer, and will include a “Memorial to the Lost” t-shirt display. “Stand with us. Sing and pray with us for a swift end to the carnage of gun violence in this city and throughout our nation,” said the invitation. See https://gallery.mailchimp.com/78ec0d0fe719817883b01c35b/images/352be662-bbf7-4d20-b794-06ad7b116e34.jpg.
For more information about Peace Day 2014, go to http://peacedaypray.tumblr.com.

Source: 9/16/2014 Newsline

Praying and worshiping in the spirit of Pentecost on Peace Day

The following Action Alert from the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness calls attention to Sunday, Sept. 21, as the 2014 observance of Peace Day:

Peace Day is quickly approaching (Sunday, Sept. 21) and this year we are praying and worshipping in the spirit of Pentecost. Register your congregation at http://peacedaypray.tumblr.com/join.

The Day of Pentecost showcases the creative nature of the Holy Spirit. In Acts, we see the Spirit coming like tongues of fire as it sweeps through the assembled faithful and blesses them with an ecstatic vision for the future of the church.

“This is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2: 16-17).

We live in a time when to dream and be creative is of the utmost importance for the vitality of the church and its mission. The world around us keeps finding new ways to exhibit violence toward all kinds of people, and too often we are playing catch up in trying to figure out how to tangibly manifest God’s peace and healing to those in great need.

It can feel overwhelming when you think of the injustices in Ferguson, the violence in Gaza, the American bombing of Iraq and Syria, our Nigerian sisters still in captivity, and the stories of the Central American migrant children trying to escape violence. But because of the lamentation and hopelessness these events produce, we must carry the light of Christ to the world around us.

Peace Day is the ideal time to share the light of Christ with your community and to discern how to concretely build peace in the world around you. Your local church and wider community need the healing hands of Christ, and while we may act and worship locally, we can also think and act globally.

We encourage you to get creative when planning your Peace Day activities. In the past, groups have had peace fairs, footwashing ceremonies, interfaith prayer gatherings, and have integrated special prayers for peace into their Sunday service, organized 5K runs to raise money for charities, and much more.

What will your church do? What visions and dreams of peace do you have? How does your community need to be healed? How can your church community pray for the world?

Register now to let us know your congregation or community group will participate in Peace Day 2014 at http://peacedaypray.tumblr.com/join. More information about Peace Day and what other congregations are doing can be found at peacedaypray.tumblr.com .

Sept. 21 also is Mission Offering Sunday ( www.brethren.org/offerings/mission ). The Mission Offering supports ongoing international partnerships with brothers and sisters in Nigeria, Haiti, South Sudan, and many other places around the world. Please consider participating in this special offering as part of your Peace Day services.

-- Bryan Hanger is advocacy assistant at the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C. To receive Action Alerts from the Office of Public Witness go to www.brethren.org/advocacy/actionalerts.html. For more information about the public witness ministries of the Church of the Brethren, contact Nathan Hosler, director, Office of Public Witness, 337 North Carolina Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20003; nhosler@brethren.org; 717-333-1649.

Source: 9/16/2014 Newsline

Speakers, worship, and music leadership announced for 2015 Annual Conference

Tampa, Fla., is the location for Annual Conference 2015
The preachers and the worship and music leadership for next year’s Church of the Brethren Annual Conference has been announced by the Conference Office. The 2015 Conference will return to a Saturday-through-Wednesday schedule on July 11-15, in Tampa, Fla. Moderator David Steele will lead the Conference on the theme “Abide in My Love...and Bear Fruit” (John 15:9-17). Find his reflection on the theme at www.brethren.org/ac/2015/theme.html.

A full color poster inviting Brethren to attend the 2015 Annual Conference is being mailed to each congregation in the Source packet, for posting on church bulletin boards. The poster includes information about sightseeing opportunities and family friendly activities in the area that Brethren may want to include in a trip to Florida to attend the Conference. To get a copy for everyone in a congregation, e-mail the Conference Office at annualconference@brethren.org.

In related news, nominations are open for denominational leadership offices to be elected by the 2015 Conference. Open positions include Annual Conference moderator-elect; Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee member; members of the Mission and Ministry Board--Areas 1, 4, and 5; On Earth Peace Board member; Brethren Benefit Trust Board member; Bethany Theological Seminary trustee representing laity and trustee representing clergy; Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee member; and five members of the Review and Evaluation Committee. Find nomination forms and more information at www.brethren.org/ac/nominations.

Preachers, worship and music leadership for Annual Conference 2015

Preachers bringing the messages for worship at the 2015 Conference are
  • David Steele, 2015 Annual Conference moderator, who will preach on Saturday evening, July 11,
  • Rodger Nishioka, a popular speaker at this year’s National Youth Conference and an associate professor at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga., who will bring the Sunday morning message on July 12,
  • Katie Shaw Thompson, co-pastor at Ivester Church of the Brethren in Grundy Center, Iowa, and also an NYC speaker, who will preach Monday evening, July 13,
  • Don Fitzkee, chair-elect of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board and director of development at COBYS Family Services in Leola, Pa., who will lead Tuesday evening’s service, July 14, and
  • Thomas M. Dowdy Jr., pastor of Imperial Heights Church of the Brethren in Los Angeles, Calif., who will preach Wednesday morning, July 15.
On Sunday evening, performances will be given by Ted and Co. and Ken Medema, who both performed at National Youth Conference earlier this year.

The Worship Planning Team includes Christy Waltersdorff of Lombard, Ill., and the Program and Arrangements Committee; Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey of Hagerstown, Md.; Russ Matteson of Modesto, Calif.; and Dave Witkovsky of Huntingdon, Pa.

Coordinating the music is Carol Elmore of Roanoke, Va. The Conference Choir director will be Terry Hershberger of Woodbury, Pa. The Children’s Choir will be directed by Marianne Houff of Penn Laird, Va. Conference musicians will include organist John Shafer of Oakton, Va., and pianist Heather Landram of Richmond, Ind.

Chris Douglas serves as Conference Director. For more information go to www.brethren.org/ac.

Source: 9/16/2014 Newsline

Nigerian Christians say ‘We are on the run’: An interview with EYN president Samuel Dali

By Illia Djadi of World Watch Monitor 

What ISIS has done in Iraq, Boko Haram is doing in Nigeria, a Nigerian cleric says.

"The news is really bad. When they attacked our hometown, we decided to vacate the place. In Michika and surrounding areas, soldiers were running away. Some of them were killed or wounded and lot of people were also running for their lives," Samuel Dali, president of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, told World Watch Monitor as he was on the run, a few meters from the Cameroon border.

During the weekend of Sept. 6-7, Boko Haram militants took over Dali’s hometown of Michika, in Adamawa State, on Nigeria’s eastern border. Recent territorial gains made by Boko Haram in the northeast, he said, signal the end of his home and of the church in that part of the country, Africa’s most populous.

In Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, swept across the country’s north in June, forcing hundreds of thousands of people, about a quarter of them Christian, fleeing from their homes. Hundreds have been killed. Whole towns have essentially emptied of Christians and non-Sunni Muslims, and their places of worship have been destroyed or occupied.

The situation in the parts of northeast Nigeria overrun by Boko Haram is similar, Dali said.

"We have lost almost everything," he said. "Most of our churches have been destroyed and our pastors are scattered all over. Our members have fled and some of them killed. That’s what we have tried to prevent from happening." The Church of the Brethren is known locally as Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria, or EYN Church.

And, as in Iraq, Nigerian Christians are on the run, Dali said.

During the weekend attacks, dozens of cars loaded with people and luggage formed a long queue. Many, he said, were confused, and didn’t know where to go. Some are thinking of crossing the border to Cameroon, while others planned to reach relatives and friends elsewhere in Nigeria.

In recent weeks, thousands have already crossed the border as the insurgents have overrun several major towns, notably Bama, the second-largest city of Borno State with about 270,000 inhabitants and just 45 miles away of Maiduguri, the state capital.

Despite government assurance that Maiduguri is safe, traditional elders--a forum made up of retired civilian and military officials--have told Nigerian news media that Boko Haram has surrounded the capital, where thousands of people have been taking refuge. They called on the government to send reinforcements and also warned that the people in Maiduguri are facing starvation, given that subsistence farming has been disrupted by the continuing violence.

With the black-and-white jihadists’ flag flying over Michika and Bazza, attention now is turned to nearby Mubi, the commercial centre of Adamawa state, which had a population of about 60,000, though now is largely deserted, according to the BBC.

The Nigerian government declared a state of emergency in Adamawa and two other northeastern states, Borno and Yobe, in May 2013, and extended it, for a third time, in May this year. The military has deployed an additional 500 troops to help take back Michika and two other towns, Gulak and Kunchinka.

Dali said it’s too late.

"We have seen the army jets flying over the town, but how can they bomb the insurgents while they’ve hidden in civilian houses?" He said. "So eventually, the three states under emergency may be taken over by these terrorists."

Boko Haram may be close to achieving its goal of establishing Islamic rule, at least in one part of Nigeria, said Bitrus Pogu, a prominent leader in Chibok, the Borno state village from which more than 200 girls, many of them Christian, were kidnapped from their school in April. Though some have escaped, most remain unaccounted for. Boko Haram’s putative leader, Abubakar Shekau, has said the insurgency’s "war between Muslims and unbelievers" will end when Islamic law rules Nigeria "or, alternatively, when all fighters are annihilated and no one is left to continue the fight."

Pogu said Boko Haram’s offensive is meant, in part, to deny President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, a second term after Nigeria’s 2015 elections.

"Our mainly Christian areas voted massively for Goodluck Jonathan, a fact that enabled the sitting President to succeed at the polls in 2011," Pogu told World Watch Monitor. "Going towards 2015, Boko Haram, on behalf of some top Northern politicians, wants to decimate and displace our communities so that we would be less of a factor in next year’s elections."

Pogu said Nigeria’s "deeply divided fighting force" is helping Boko Haram in that effort, and that it has "many atrociously wealthy sponsors on account of the fact that successive governments in Nigeria have always patronized Muslims to our exclusion."

Widespread but vague suspicions of well-placed Boko Haram patrons broke into wide-open national debate in late August when Stephen Davis, an Australian who in April was authorized to negotiate the release of the Chibok girls, provided names of government officials that he said provide money and supplies to the militants.

Davis claimed that the former Governor of Borno State, Modu Sheriff, and a former Chief of Army staff, retired Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, are among the top sponsors of the Islamist insurgents. Both Sheriff and Iherjirika deny the allegations, which themselves have been swept into Nigerian politics.

"That makes it easier in some ways as they can be arrested," Davis said, "but of course the onus of proof is high and many are in opposition, so if the president moves against them, he would be accused of trying to rig the elections."

-- This interview with Nigerian Brethren president Samuel Dante Dali and other Nigerian church leaders was published by World Watch Monitor, an organization that reports the story of Christians around the world under pressure for their faith.

Source: 9/16/2014 Newsline

Haiti Medical Project attains 30-month milestone, Lancaster church raises more than $100,000, Brethren World Mission continues support

Photo by Dr. Emerson Pierre
The Haiti Medical Project attained a 30-month milestone this summer in June, reports Dale Minnich who serves as a volunteer fundraiser for the project. Also this summer, Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren surpassed its fundraising goal of $100,000 to raise an actual amount of $103,700, reported by Lancaster member Otto Schaudel.

The Brethren World Mission group also is offering substantial support, with a goal of providing $100,000 to the project.

“The Haiti Medical Project has grown rapidly,” Minnich reported. “Overall, it has been an amazing 30 months since Haiti Medical Project began in early 2012.”

Developments in 2014 include the doubling of the number of clinics held per year to a projected total of 48, which will serve about 7,000 people, with total expenditures expected in the range of $135,000. In 2013, 24 clinics were held with almost 3,500 patients seen.

The fledgling endowment has over $225,000 in hand. There is a growing focus on preventative care, and benefits seen from the 2013 addition of a small building and purchase of a vehicle.

The Haiti Medical Project emerged out of the experience of a Brethren medical delegation that worked in Haiti after the devastating earthquake of 2010, under the auspices of Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti) and Brethren Disaster Ministries. “This initial response--though just a drop in the bucket--launched a series of conversations over the next 18 months to envision a way to make a more significant and on-going response to the great needs that were identified,” Minnich wrote in his report on the 30-month milestone.

In fall 2011, American Brethren including Paul Ullom-Minnich, a physician from Kansas who had been on the medical delegation of 2010, met with Haitian Brethren leaders and physicians willing to lead a mobile clinic team. A plan was developed for 16 clinics in 2012 costing about $30,000 and staffed by a team of Haitian doctors and nurses. At those first clinics, more than 1,500 people were served.

Because of limitations in the Global Mission and Service budget at the time, funding was sought through “over and above giving” from Brethren congregations, groups, and individuals, with an endowment fund initiated to provide long-term financial stability.

“The Brethren have responded generously to this challenge, led by an initial grant of at least $100,000 by Brethren World Mission to be paid over several years,” Minnich reported. As of the end of 2013, a total of $71,320 in support had been given by Brethren World Mission and the group projects that the $100,000 goal will be reached by the end of 2014. “This lead gift was extremely important in getting the project moving and in witnessing to others who also could provide support,” Minnich said.

The project is working with the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service and Haitian Church of the Brethren leaders to create some additional features of the partnership, Minnich reported. These may include an annual consultation in Haiti to review and plan together for social service ministries, and a new Community Development Team to work alongside the Mobile Clinics on community health issues such as water purification.

-- Dale Minnich, a volunteer consultant for the Haiti Medical Project, provided the bulk of this report.

Source: 9/16/2014 Newsline

Annual BRF unit of Brethren Volunteer Service begins a year of service

Photo courtesy of BVS

BRF BVS Unit 306: (from left) orientation leaders Peggy and Walter Heisey, Emily Bollinger, Beverly Godfrey, Zach Nolt, Monika Nolt holding Jaden Nolt, and Elizabeth Myers.
The annual Brethren Revival Fellowship unit of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) has completed orientation and begun a year of volunteer service. All of the members of the unit are serving at the same project site, the Root Cellar in Lewiston, Maine, where one volunteer also will do work connected with the neighborhood around Horton Street House.

The new volunteers, their home congregations, and hometowns:

Emily Bollinger is a member of Cocalico Church of the Brethren in Denver, Pa., and is from Reinholds, Pa.

Beverly Godfrey is a member of Pleasant Hill Church of the Brethren in Spring Grove, Pa., from Seven Valleys, Pa.

Elizabeth Myers is a member of Brunswick (Maine) Church of the Brethren and is from Brunswick.

Zach and Monika Nolt and their son Jaden of White Oak Church of the Brethren in Manheim, Pa., are from Annville, Pa.

Peggy and Walter Heisey served as orientation leaders.

For more about Brethren Volunteer Service go to www.brethren.org/bvs.

Source: 9/16/2014 Newsline

Bethany Seminary engages youth in thinking about faith and call

By Jenny Williams

This past summer the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., invited young people to think theological thoughts and ask faith-forming questions. Amid beautiful landscapes, supplemented by worship and recreation, and surrounded by support from peers and mentors, the responses were thoughtful, deep, and encouraging.

For the first time, junior high students gathered for Immerse! on June 17-24 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. Explore Your Call (EYC), Bethany’s annual program for high school juniors and seniors, was held July 15-19 just prior to National Youth Conference at Colorado State University. Leadership in planning and directing both Immerse! and EYC was provided by Russell Haitch, director of the institute and  professor of Christian education, and Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach programs. Both events are available at no cost to participants through a generous grant from Barnabas Ltd., a family foundation based in Australia that focuses on preparing people for ministry.

During Immerse!, seven junior high youth joined in exploring what it has meant to call oneself a Christian, from the time of the early church to the beginning of the Brethren movement to the 21st century. Together they studied most of the book of Acts, asking questions and discussing ways to enact the proclamation that "Jesus is alive!" in today's world. Haitch and Houff worked to provide a supportive, encouraging environment for conversations about relating to peers, differences in church traditions, and how to witness to one’s own faith. “The youth were hungry for this experience,” said Houff. “They soaked everything in and left wishing the experience had lasted longer.”

Taking advantage of the central Pennsylvania location, the group came in contact with Brethren history. Jeff Bach, director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, arranged day trips including a tour of the center led by staff member Edsel Burdge. With pastor Kevin Derr from Philadelphia First Church of the Brethren, they visited Germantown Church of the Brethren and its historic cemetery and took part in Sunday worship. A tour of Amish country included lunch with an Amish family and conversations about the different Amish traditions.

Bethany Clark, a Bethany Seminary master of divinity student, assisted with logistics for the event, led worship, and shared from her experience as youth pastor at Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. The youth participants included Hannah Buck, Ally Dupler, Erika Fies, and Maura Longenecker from Atlantic Northeast District; Clara Brown from Southern Ohio District; Emilie Deffenbaugh from Western Pennsylvania District; and Garrett Lowe from Mid-Atlantic District.

“When we think of learning only in terms of mental or emotional development, it limits our sense of what junior high students can do,” said Haitch. “With spiritual education, when the Holy Spirit shows up, a lot of developmental assumptions go out the window. For example, as we studied the book of Acts, these youth not only asked questions but offered observations and insights that I would be happy to hear in a seminary classroom.”

Houff also appreciated the high school youth who participated in EYC, noting that “all were discerning a call in their own lives and were prepared for the EYC experience.” By focusing on the meaning and nature of being called, the theme of EYC dovetailed with the theme of National Youth Conference the following week, “Called by Christ” based on Ephesians 4. “It was good to build on the energy that the youth had for NYC, giving them basic Bible study and theological reflection before they headed into the mountaintop experience of NYC,” said Houff.

In addition to studying Ephesians, EYC youth learned about the history, styles, and planning of worship with Tara Hornbacker, professor of ministry formation, missional church, and evangelism at Bethany, who shared session leadership with Haitch. Time also was spent in worship, recreation, and a day in Rocky Mountain National Park to consider the divine in creation and the importance of caring for creation.

“There has been national research on these youth and theology summer programs over the past 20 years, and we are finding that over half of the participants go on to seminary or full-time ministry. In other words, even a week or two in high school can have a life-transforming impact,” said Haitch.

Chloe Soliday from Middle Pennsylvania District said that EYC was a “pivotal moment” for her. “It was the start of my spiritual journey, and since the conference I have been called to dive right in, applying to be a part of the Middle Pennsylvania District Youth Ministry Team. I am ecstatic to share my love for ministry, even more so now that I was baptized in August and agreed to be a disciple of Jesus and a faithful member of my congregation.” Additional participants were Jeremy Bucher and Jenna Walmer from Atlantic Northeast District and Courtney Hawkins from Virlina District.

Plans are underway for a second Immerse! to be held in 2016. In 2015, Explore Your Call will return to its standard 10-day duration at Bethany Seminary, scheduled for July 24-Aug. 3. Information about the event and registration will be released in the coming months. Contact Bekah Houff at houffre@bethanyseminary or 765-983-1809.

-- Jenny Williams is director of communications and alumni/ae relations for Bethany Theological Seminary.

Source: 9/16/2014 Newsline

Life goes on under a shadow in Iraqi Kurdistan

By Peggy Faw Gish

This report from Church of the Brethren member Peggy Faw Gish, who is working with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraqi Kurdistan, was published on CPTNet on Sept. 15. It was adapted from a piece on Gish's personal blog:

In the hot afternoon sun, two children dart into the small grocery store near our house and come out smiling with popsicles. A woman responds to my greeting of “Choni bashi?” as she fills up a bag of plums. As the sun starts to drop closer to the horizon, clusters of boys are out on our street playing football (soccer). Even though Kurdish and international forces are fighting the Islamic State (IS) two and a half hours away, life, in Iraqi Kurdistan, goes on.

A shadow, however, looms over the people in the Kurdish region of Iraq. They feel it when they hear that the Kurdish Peshmerga forces have taken back towns on the edge of Mosul from the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and DAASH) fighters. But they also remember early August, when the Peshmerga had been protecting the city of Shangal (Sinjar) and the surrounding areas, but then withdrew from the area--claiming they had run out of ammunition. The withdrawal allowed IS soldiers to come in and terrorize the Yazidi people.

Even though IS had been collaborating over the past years with some Sunni populations in Iraq, in their opposition to the oppressive actions of the al-Maliki government, it was the IS takeover of Mosul in June that made the world take notice. Yet, it seemed that IS was moving toward Baghdad afterwards and not the northern Kurdish region, so the Kurds drew a deep breath. Then, on Aug. 3, the front got a little closer when IS captured the Mosul Dam and the city of Sinjar. Peshmerga forces responded with attempts to retake some captured towns on the edge of the Kurdish region. But it came as a surprise, when, on Aug. 6, IS seized four strategic towns on a key highway and advanced to positions just minutes from Erbil, the capitol of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).

Many airlines canceled flights in and out of the Erbil Airport. International companies and organizations began to evacuate personnel. Memories resurfaced of Saddam’s regime’s genocide against the Kurds in the late 1980s and of other times in their past when their families fled violence by going to Iran or Turkey. Now, on TV, features show photos of Kurdish families fleeing during the uprising against Saddam’s regime in 1991, next to almost identical photos of people fleeing IS today. For them, history seems to repeat itself every few decades.

The Kurds of Suleimani have some comfort knowing that Peshmerga soldiers, along with international troops, are pushing IS forces farther away. And since the closest IS controlled area now is a two hour drive away, people would see IS forces approaching before they reached their doorstep.

This underlying danger, however, is not the only way the threat from the IS has impacted Kurdish society. In addition to the more than 200,000 Syrian refugees currently in the Kurdish region, an estimated 850,000 displaced persons from embroiled areas of Iraq have come into the Kurdish region in the past three months, putting a strain on government revenues and services. For some of the population, latent resentments toward Arabs come to the surface. Housing has become tighter and rents have almost doubled in many residential areas. In Duhok Province alone, more than 600 schools are still being used for housing displaced people. While work has started to build more displacement camps to house them, schools there and in some other areas, will be late in opening this fall.

This January, Baghdad stopped sending the Kurdish Region’s allotted 17 percent of the country’s oil revenues to the KRG, in protest against the Kurds independently exporting oil to Turkey. Because of this, Kurdish government employees and civil servants (including teachers) have had wages delayed, month after month. Increased prices of gasoline and some other commodities have set off a wave of public protests around the region. And now, an increasing number of families worry for their husband or sons who have joined the Peshmerga fighting IS on the front lines.

Yet, in spite of these stresses normal daily life does go on. Here in our neighborhood, school opened this morning, so masses of children were walking along the streets and gathering excitedly in front of the school across the street from our house. Men and women still go to work, ride the buses, walk the streets going to the corner grocery shop or bakery, and go on picnics at beautiful waterfalls in the mountains. Each day they help their neighbors, and love their families. With friends, they still sit around on mats on the floor, enjoying Kurdish traditional foods. They also donate material goods for those fleeing their homes, remembering that not so long ago, their families were among those terrorized and seeking refuge.

-- Peggy Faw Gish has served for many years as part of the Christian Peacemaker Team first in Iraq and then in Iraqi Kurdistan. CPT got its start with help from the Historic Peace Churches including the Church of the Brethren. Its mission is building partnerships to transform violence and oppression, with a vision of a “world of communities that together embrace the diversity of the human family and live justly and peaceably with all creation.” Go to www.cpt.org for more.

Source: 9/16/2014 Newsline

Laminating with a BA: Learning how to make a life in Brethren Volunteer Service

Photo courtesy of Sarah Seibert

Highland Park Elementary School
By Sarah Seibert

It was Thursday morning, four days into my first week at Highland Park Elementary School, and I was sitting on the floor in the office cutting out still more newly laminated classroom decorations for the teachers. The principal turned to me and said, “After you’re done with that, I have a terribly mundane and tedious job for you.”

I glanced down at my current project, uncertain he understood the monotony I was already facing. However, he must have known because he followed up his first comment with, “Not that what you’re doing now is exactly putting your college degree to work.”

His comment is worth considering. Am I using my college degree right now? Not just while laminating but more generally at this BVS project.

I am Chief Laminator at Highland Park. I’m also on Walker duty (opening the door in the morning for students who walked to school and releasing them to their parents after dismissal) and help in Second Grade with crowd control, assignment clarifications and bathroom escorts. I theoretically coordinate the Pack-A-Snack program too but the churches and school guidance counselor know much more about it than I do. Not directly part of my job but relevant to it is my attendance at many church meetings, Bible studies, and functions throughout the week.

I graduated with a bachelor of arts in Biblical Studies with a concentration in Biblical Languages from Gordon College. Not much obvious overlap. So am I using my degree? Not if you define using as taking what I’ve learned in my classes over the past four years and building on it by further study or passing it on by teaching it to others. I don’t speak up much at the Bible studies. I haven’t read my Hebrew Bible lately, opened a commentary, or even followed a biblical studies blogger. I haven’t been able to apply what I know of Greek tenses or the geography of Israel to my work in or out of the classroom thus far, and don’t anticipate opportunities to do so in the near future.

However, as I prepared to enter college someone told me, “College is not about learning how to make a living but how to make a life.” I have been educated at a Christian Liberal Arts residential college and not everything I have learned at that place shows up on my transcript. At college, I honed my critical thinking skills, my reading and writing abilities, and my communication skills. I practiced being disciplined and diligent. I planned and organized events and review sessions.

I also had my horizons expanded and began to care about sustainability, the marginalized of society, and building bridges across racial lines. My definition of success as the prevailing culture sees it was challenged and refined. Through all of this, I wrestled with what God calls the church, and calls me as an individual, to do in response to these things.

In that light, this volunteer position at an urban school sponsored by a church that wants to be involved in its community seems to be the natural outgrowth of my college training.

Perhaps rather than me putting my degree to work, my degree has put me to work in this place for the next season of my life.

-- Sarah Seibert is serving in Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) at Highland Park Elementary School in Roanoke, Va., a position sponsored by Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke.

Source: 9/16/2014 Newsline