Youth Peace Travel Team – Camp Pine Lake

IMG_8512.edited

Hello from among the miles of cornfield! This past week we were blessed to fellowship with the Senior High at Camp Pine Lake. These youth blew us away with their many gifts of singing, sharing their journey, and bracelet making.

This week the team was invited to lead a large group Bible study session as well as our normal peace-related sessions each day. All of the camps that we have visited are using a curriculum this summer titled “Fearless Faith.” Each day has its own theme, one of which is “together the courage to trust” for which is used the story of Ruth and Naomi in Ruth 1:16-18. One thing that I have been trying to work on this summer, with the support of the team, has been creating more space for others to share and lead, especially during our sessions. This week, I felt a new level of trust throughout the team as we allowed more flexibility in our sessions and each shared out of our own places of understanding. All of this came together in ways we could have never planned and truly demonstrates the beautiful work of the Spirit in community. I am so grateful for the many friendships that we were also blessed with this week. Many of the campers are already active members in the broader church, and they eagerly look forward to serving in Ministry Summer Service, Youth Peace Travel Team, and Brethren Volunteer Service. I cannot wait to see the beautiful work that these leaders will do. Their love is such a blessing and inspiration.

Sara

What an amazing week in Iowa! The warm welcomes started with the Nehers and their amazing muffins, continues by the community church gathering, and then the campers and staff letting us join into their already tight-knit community. It was really awesome to see the campers from the get-go inviting us to join in on all of their favorite activities like Eagles Nest, Ultimate Frisbee, friendship bracelet making, and night games. The campers’ opinions and thoughts on the Bible and our peace session led me to think in different ways this week. One of my favorite activities we led this week was during “Change Day.” We asked, “What makes a car a car?” and then continued with “how would you change a car?” We also did this same exercise with the concepts of school and church. It was awesome to hear about what they thought was essential to each of these and how they would change them. I fell in love with this camp and Iowa in my short time there.

Peace, Love, and Corn
Jenna

Another wonderful week has come to pass! I can’t believe how much I loved Pine Lake. The camp atmosphere there felt like home almost immediately. The connection of the youth in that district was already so strong, but didn’t feel exclusive. It was such a welcoming group, and I’m thankful that they so quickly brought us into their community. They were all insightful and well-spoken youth, and I benefitted as much from their leadership as they did from ours.

In addition to our normal sessions, we also got to lead Bible Study, which ended up being one of the biggest blessings of the summer. The team fed off of each other and the Holy Spirit flowed freely in the group. One of my prayers before leading anything is always: “Your words, not mine, God.” I think that prayer was answered so wonderfully this week, not only through the team, but through the youth and camp leadership as well.

Another thing I loved about Pine Lake was campfire, which always started with silly songs. I was pleased to find that I knew a lot of their songs and vise versa, and I was thrilled to learn some new songs and new versions of some old songs. The youth got to lead campfire in small groups, and one of the most intense moments all week was when people shared stories of forgiveness in their lives. Every day there was an emotional experience and a ton of fun.

Overall, my time in Iowa was incredible. Full of jokes, love, camp songs, and corn, I can vouch for Iowa: it really is 75% vowels, and 100% awesome.

Phoebe

Hello pals!
What a week at Pine Lake! Not to say my “city slicker” sights had anything to do with this, but I had some low expectations for a camp in the middle of miles of corn. That expectation was quickly melted away with the warm hospitality of the Nehers when they picked us up from the airport. What waited for us at their home was four individual beds (while I love my team, it is a treat to get our own beds) a breakfast of pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and tea, and wonderful conversation. I was in awe of the hospitality from these two. And the camp was beautiful!! I would have to say my favorite thing about this week was the group dynamic of the team. We led Bible study as well as our sessions. I believe this was the first time it really clicked for us to have an outline of what we were going to do and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. I was blown away at what the Spirit did for us as a team, and hopefully the campers as well. It was refreshing to be with senior high youth again. Some of these senior high youth were also with us at Annual Conference and had just returned from a work camp. I am always excited to see young people moving in the denomination. I was also moved at the senior dedication camp fire. I felt so proud of these campers I had known only a week! They had become fine young adults in that week. I look forward to seeing them at Young Adult Conferences!! Thanks for all the smiles and silly songs, Pine Lake!!

Peace,
Kiana

Not so simple: Living in Christ

Order a free copy of Giving magazine today at www.brethren.org/givingmag.

Order a free copy of
Giving magazine today at www.brethren.org/givingmag.

A reflection by Adam J. Copeland

Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. – Philippians 4:11

If only simple living were actually simple. I recently found my way to a website dedicated to simple living. The author suggested hiring a style consultant to simplify one’s wardrobe. Then one could sign-up for an extensive eight-week course on how to live a simple life. Oh, and I can’t forget the $30 million minimalist house featured prominently on the site. The website made simple living actually look pretty complicated—and expensive!

Katharine, a friend of mine, recently went on a road trip that took her near the house of an acquaintance, a woman she had met but was not particularly close to. Katharine values minimalism and thrift, so she asked if she might stay the night with her acquaintance. Katharine later explained to me, “I only expected a shower and a bed and certainly no more than a bowl of cereal for breakfast. But what I received was a full experience: decadent, home-cooked meals; a collection of new friends; great conversation; and the warming of a soul that only comes with hospitality towards the whole person, perfectly executed.” Katharine sought simplicity, but she received generosity.

What should we do with this simple-living paradox, this challenge that for many of us today, living simply takes real work? Even when we attempt to live simply, we can end up with another experience entirely. I prefer to look at those who were just as baffled some 2000 years ago. “—Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content in whatever I have,” writes the Apostle Paul from his jail cell in Rome (Phil 4:11). Paul had just received a gift from the community of the Philippians, with whom he had previously stayed and to whom he had ministered.

Many scholars scratch their heads in wonder when they see the placement of this expression of gratitude in Paul’s letter to the Philippians way back in the fourth chapter of the letter. Why wait until the very end of a letter to acknowledge a gift that was clearly unexpected? Perhaps it’s the same reason that sometimes pushes me to avoid acknowledging gifts that I consider uncalled for, gifts unexpected and truly generous. Gifts can disrupt a pursuit of simplicity, upending plans for a minimalist approach.

Paul was a missionary who would not have typically accepted gifts for himself. He was about as far from current-day prosperity preachers asking their congregations for funds to purchase a private jet as we can imagine. For Paul , such gifts would have directly contradicted the humility of Christ he pursued, the self-emptying about which he preached.

Far from a response to a planned gift, this passage of thanksgiving says something more about caring for unexpected gifts, treating the gift received with honor, and as a symbol of the partnership in question. Sensibly, Philippians 4:11 qualifies Paul’s motive for writing this piece of gratitude. He’s clear that he knows how to live with little, just as he knows what it is to live with much. Paul writes, “In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need” (4:12). And yet, Paul is grateful, reiterating his thanks three times. While Paul didn’t ask for it, as he was accustomed to simple living (though prison is a rather extreme version of simple living), Paul accepted the gift and indicated it would profit the church and others. Paul also emphasizes the long, loving relationship between the Philippians and his ministry.

While simple living is not so simple, it can lead to generosity in many forms: generous giving of time, generous giving of money, generous giving of love, and eventually, generous thanksgiving. Philippians 4:11 reminds us, however, that complications arise when attempting to live simply. Epaphroditus, the one who delivered the gift from the Philippians, almost died of illness when he was with Paul. As Paul sought to live simply, Epaphroditus “came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for those services that you could not give me” (2:30). Such reminders help to dissuade us from dangerous notions that those who live in poverty have life simple or easy. The gospel is clear in its call to care for the poor and needy. We should not need to be reminded that poverty is hazardous for individuals, households, and society.

And yet, for those of us who have much, living simply can become a call to action responding to God’s good and unexpected gifts to us. As Paul indicates, it is a learning process, a sanctification process, even, of being made holy by the Spirit’s good work in us. Like Paul, as we focus on living out the gospel of Christ, we cannot expect that simple living is easy. Together, though, we might find that with God, simple living is faithful.

Rev. Adam J. Copeland teaches at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota where he serves as director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders. This reflection was originally published in Giving magazine, produced by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. E-mail ebrethren@brethren.org to receive a complimentary copy of the 2016 issue of Giving magazine.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

A church is people stuck together by love

Zander and Joshua

Zander and Joshua

Church in Uba by Zander Willoughby

Last Sunday, while staying at Kulp Bible College near Kwarhi, Adamawa State, Nigeria, Joshua, my travelling companion, and I got up and headed to church in Uba, Joshua’s home church. The road on which EYN headquarters and KBC sit is, by Nigerian standards (especially Adamawa State) fairly good, meaning that you can drive in a fairly straight line and not spend the whole time driving from ditch to ditch to avoid the potholes. This road, however, sings. The road has a slight hum to it. Our driver for the week, Bulus, told us that the road now sings because, during the insurgency, Boko Haram drove a huge APC (Armoured Personnel Carrier) down the road as they ransacked the area of Maraba Mubi and crushed the layers under the road.

The drive to Uba takes about 15 minutes (it would be 10 if it weren’t for all the military checkpoints). We turned down a dirt road squeezed between to walls and spent another five minutes or so weaving between goats, huts, compounds, and potholes. One the way back to the church, I saw my first monkey outside of a zoo!!!

Old church - Mufa A

Old church – Mufa A

When we got to the church, L.C.C. Mufa A, the people outside were very excited to have a guest visit with them. We walked into the church compound and saw what was probably the most bittersweet sight of my trip. On the right side of compound was a pile of rubble around a cement slab, what used to be L.C.C. Mufa A. On the left side was a building that, if it wasn’t Sunday and full of people, I’d assume was a pole barn. This is the new L.C.C. Mufa A. The bitter part is obvious, the sweet part was what happened inside. We were welcomed graciously inside (in true Nigerian fashion, we arrived late) and it was insisted that we sit right up front by the pulpit. They asked me to introduce myself and tell everyone why I was there. I told them that I was there to experience the resilience of the EYN church in such trying times and to extend a loving hand from the Church of the Brethren in America. Joshua translated it into Hausa for me.

New chruch - Mufa A

New chruch – Mufa A

If you’d been sitting in that worship service, you’d never know that we were sitting a few feet from their burned out church. Their tied together poles and scrap sheet metal might as well have been marble pillars. They sing with their heart. The sound of their drums filled the room and probably carried all the way back to Kwarhi. I was told later that the sermon was very good. I barely understand any Hausa, so I spent the sermon time reading through the Sermon on the Mount, wondering how Jesus would preach on non-violent resistance to today’s terrorism. Since many of the churches can’t afford to pay their pastors full salary, they had a special offering after the service for the pastor and his wife to give them gifts and blessings. It was a beautiful scene with love and support for all. In the end, a church isn’t a collection of bricks stuck together by mortar. A church is people, stuck together by love.​

Worship Time

Worship Time

Youth Peace Travel Team – Camp Ithiel

IMG_8428.edited Greetings! This past week we had an amazing time at Camp Ithiel in fellowship with Junior High Camp! We were able to refresh from the hot sun with a trip to Twisty Treat with some of the support staff. Again, we were amazed by the youth’s insights during our justice workshops. It was awesome to have a session with each small group and dive deep into our curriculum.

This past week at Camp Ithiel was a blast – full of love-filled conversations about faith, enthusiastic singing, and lots of sun! Because the majority of the campers and staff at Ithiel are not members of the Church of the Brethren, I was less accustomed to the spiritual practices and theological language used. Although I am often quick to share my own thoughts and opinions, this week I spent deliberately practicing open listening. It saddens me to think how easily I could have missed the many blessings that were shared with me this week. The counselors, staff, and campers modeled for me a core element of spirituality that I had no idea I was completely ignoring: surrender. In songs, they lifted their hand over their heads in surrender to the powerful emotion of sharing together in worship and the presence of the spirit in that place. In prayer, they would surrender their tongues to a fervent plea for grace for those with whom they stood. When playing camp games, they would surrender themselves to the joy and laughter of the moment, running full-tilt. Individuals modeled the importance of surrender as they told stories of their own faith journeys during which they placed all faith in God and continued on, often in a new unexpected direction. Now I would say that I am an absolute novice in the area of surrender, but boy did this family in faith inspire me to give it more practice. I hope to practice being more present and surrender myself to my emotions during worship. I also hope to quiet my own thought more often to surrender myself to the wisdom of those around me.
Blessings and peace,
Sara

Howdy!
What a wonderful week once again! Camp Ithiel is such a beautiful camp; it was so hard to leave! This week I was amazed by the depth of the youth’s faith, and by how much they yearned to grow deeper in their connection with Christ. Also, the connections being made with counselors and staff are still awesome. They push me to think deeper about my faith, my choices, and my journey. I was really able to open up – even though it typically is a challenge for me.

The campers this week were so awesomely energetic, and they were able to share their energy with me. They shared stories of their lives so gratefully and truly opened up to us. Finally, I appreciated the time I spent with them outside of our sessions, hearing about what life is like in hot and humid Florida, and learning a little bit of Creole.
Peace, Love, and Palm Trees,
Jenna

Hey y’all! One more superb week has passed us by, and I have to say, I’m more than a little sad to leave. Despite the heat, Camp Ithiel was so much fun. My week was only slightly interrupted with some illness, but the campers and staff brought so much prayer and compassion to me during it. I was beyond humbled to experience their love for me, even when they had only known me a few days.

My favorite part of the week was our last session, which ended up being an open-ended “ask and talk” hour. Some of our most meaningful conversations seem to happen during the unstructured times, and I’m so grateful for those moments. In addition to our sessions, another favorite part of my time there was when YPTT got to take a short adventure to the beach! I’m a sucker for the ocean and I loved having some fun family time with the team.

The campers this week were so joyful and energetic, and the staff were incredibly engaged with their campers. Ithiel’s staff had so many gifts, and I continually saw encouragement and inspiration flowing through these counselors to the children. I was again humbled by their confidence and faith in God as He was at work in them and through them.

Although I can’t wait to experience the Iowa weather compared to Florida, leaving Ithiel wasn’t easy. I was able to take with me some jokes, songs, encouragement, and I think a little sand, too (whoops!).
– Phoebe

Hello pals!

We have just finished our week at Camp Ithiel. Returning to Camp Ithiel means a lot to me personally. My Brethren Volunteer Service orientation was held there January of 2015. A lot has happened for me since then. Also, Florida in January and Florida in July are vastly different experiences. Anyway, in some ways returning to this camp felt like home for me. This is where my Brethren journey really took off. As much as I loved my orientation at Camp Ithiel, it was awesome to experience the space in a whole new way. One of the themes from the camp curriculum is “Together, the courage to show up.” Being on Peace Team and running around constantly makes showing up mentally at times very challenging. This week specifically I had the opportunity to not only push myself physically to show up despite the heat, but to show up spiritually and mentally for worships theologically different from my own practices. Both of these I have some trouble with. But as I reflected on why it is challenging to listen to those who share different practices of similar ideas, the importance of such action has been heavy on my heart. As children of God, I think we all believe in the same basic ideas. One is not right and one is not wrong. One is not better and one is not worse. Actively loving your neighbor means to actively listen. And even if there are barriers that keep us from being active, whether it is the heat or our own personal walls, we are called to not just tolerate, but to love our neighbors. We should listen and learn from our brothers and sisters in God.

Peace, blessings and patience,
Kiana

IMG_8432.edited

The Joys of Working for Nigeria

by Carl Hill

One of the real joys my wife and I have experienced over the last four years is just being a part of something bigger than ourselves. Our involvement in Nigeria has been a blessing for us like no other (outside our children and grandchildren). It comes down to the people. We have been bowled over by both the generosity and concern of the American Brethren and warmth and hospitality of the Nigerian Brethren. Over the last few years we have had the privilege of sending over 30 people from this country to walk alongside their Nigerian brothers and sisters. We are not alone in our appreciation of the Nigerian people. Without exception, everyone that has gone to Nigeria has returned to this country with a different perspective on life and faith.

Middle Pennsylvania District

Middle Pennsylvania District

Also, over the last several years, we have visited numerous Church of the Brethren congregations speaking about our involvement in Nigeria. Because of the Church’s concern for Nigeria over $4 million dollars has been raised in support of the people of northeast Nigeria. We have spoken about Nigeria at churches, district conferences, schools and colleges. One of my favorite pictures of support was taken at the Middle Pennsylvania District Conference last year. Everyone in attendance is enthusiastically lifting holy hands in recognition of our Brethren in Nigeria.

Amazingly, the same type of enthusiasm greets us when we go to Nigeria. One of our favorite Nigerians (one among so many) is Markus Gamache. He is known in EYN as “Jauro.” This is a Nigerian term that means “community organizer.” He is really a frustrated but still hopeful politician. He knows his way around every situation that we have seen him confronted with – from questionable traffic stops on the road to choices of food that visiting Americans will eat to visa applications to get us into the country – Markus handles them all!

Markus with Sarah Robert and Roxane

Markus with Sarah Robert and Roxane

What a heart he has for his people! There doesn’t seem to be a person who cares more and does more than Markus, especially at this crucial time in Nigeria. Many people have turned to “Jauro” for help in one way or another. Markus has even started an inter-faith community (both Muslims and Christians) to house hundreds of displaced people from the northeast in a safer area near the capital city of Abuja. Church of the Brethren is partnering with Markus in this venture.

On our most recent visit to Nigeria we ran into a lady with a special problem. This lady, Sara Robert, a converted Muslim, recently graduated from Kulp Bible College. Unfortunately, like so many who have graduated from KBC in the last few years there is no place for her to go. For the men there is no place to go due to the glut of pastors and scarcity of churches. Women, on the other hand, still have no official leadership role in the church (outside of being involved in women’s ministry). To make matters worse for Sara, after graduating she had no home to return to. Our KBC contact, another of our favorites, Joshua Ishaya, asked if there wasn’t something we could do for her? That’s when Markus stepped in. He suggested that she relocate to his inter-faith community near Abuja. He believes that Sara can serve a teacher/principal for the new school that is being built for the hundreds of children living at the camp.  

I could go on and on about Markus and his wonderful ministry to everyone he comes in contact with but. . .

Here’s one last story that comes to mind. Last year on one of our trips to Nigeria we had the chance to go to Taraba State’s capital of Jalingo. Jalingo is located three grueling hours south and west of Yola. During the insurgency many EYN members fled to Jalingo in search of a safe haven. Markus took us there as EYN was considering purchasing some land to build a displaced persons camp. We went just to look at a particular plot of land. When we got to Jalingo we stopped off at one of the new worship centers for displaced EYN members. Waiting for us there were hundreds of people. Obviously word got out that we were coming and the people had gathered to greet us and possibly receive something from us in the way of food and/or supplies. We were totally unprepared for this large welcoming committee. We were fed lunch in the pastor’s office and asked to greet the people who had been waiting for us for at several hours. I cannot tell you the guilt we felt as we addressed this group of hungry and needy folks. We took some pictures and did our best to greet them in the name of Church of the Brethren.

Thankful people in Jalingo

Thankful people in Jalingo

Finally, when we returned to the quiet of the pastor’s office we started to search our pockets for money to see if we could leave this group with something. We could only scrounge up a very meager amount of money. In frustration we asked Markus if he had any money on him. Leave it to Markus; he had over 100,000 naira on him. Markus always travels with some back-up money and he also felt that it was worth contributing all of it to these abandoned brothers and sisters and their children. When he tells the story he always gives me full credit for considering the gifts we gave those people, but I know different. Markus had someone go down to the marketplace and buy beans and corn enough for each family to leave with something. It was one of the most rewarding things that we have been part of in our outreach to the struggling people of Nigeria – thanks to Markus.

Persevere: Stand together in faith

Mission Offering 2016-bannerA theme interpretation written by Matt DeBall for the 2016 Mission Offering 

“Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).

The Apostle Paul was obsessed with unity. Ever since his perspective was changed from “the Jews are the chosen people” to “all people are welcome in God’s family,” he was compelled to bring all people to the table of Christian fellowship.

It doesn’t require much effort to find the motivation of Paul’s passion for Christian community. Jesus, too, was all about sticking together in God’s family. Before Jesus was arrested, he prayed for his disciples and for us (those who would believe because of their message): “that they may be one” (John 17:21). The unity that Jes us experienced with God the Creator and the Holy Spirit was the same unity he prayed over his disciples and all who would follow them. With the inspiration of Jesus, Paul’s obsession seems well founded and worthy of continuing.

In his letter to the Philippians, we hear Paul at it again. With the declared hope that th e believers at Philippi would be of one mind, we hear echoes of Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

Signs of God’s love include living at peace with all sisters and brothers, and striving to be of one mind and mission. With his words, Paul paints beautiful pictures of what it looks like for the church to be faithful in loving God and loving others.

Paul’s words to the Philippians, however, are not solely to give us warm and fuzzy feelings about loving one another. Paul was calling the believers at Philippi to stick together through all situations and struggles of life. We all seek to love others without question until we realize how much it costs. Striving to walk with people through dark valleys and over in timidating mountains really tests the depth of our love and faith. Nonetheless, these are the roads to which God has called us to walk together “side by side.”

The Mission Offering highlights the international partners of the Church of the Brethren. As we partner with our sisters and brothers in places like Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nigeria, and South Sudan, there is much opportunity for mutual encouragement and strengthening of faith. Though how we minister within communities may look rather different, God’s call to all is share the love and hope of Jesus in all places.

As we walk with our sisters and brothers around the world, the words of Paul to the Philippians can still guide us today. Whether we are gathered together or far apart, the evidence of God’s love will be known through the unity we share. Though we may be nations and even oceans apart, we share an unbreakable bond within God’s family. Being held together by God’s love and caught up with what the Holy Spirit is doing, we can persevere and stand together in faith.

Find a full order of service for the 2016 Mission Offering (suggested date Sept. 18) at www.brethren.org/missionoffering or support the Church of the Brethren today at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Maiduguri was an amazing experience

Reflections by Zander

Zander

Zander

I spent five days in Maiduguri. For the three days of trauma healing workshops, I spent each day with a different group. The leaders were Dlama Kagula, Esther (I missed her last name, but the has a master’s from the UK), and Rev. Toma. That was an amazing experience in itself. LCC Maiduri Centre is HUGE. It was especially amazing to see how the Rwandan HROC model of trauma healing was adapted to fit the Nigerian experience.

Each day, I saw wider smiles; one could really see that many of these faces didn’t remember how to smile. I did my best to remind those in the workshops (and those facilitating) that they’re not alone, that people all over the world are thinking about them, and that the Church of the Brethren in America, especially, is with them. That brought a warm response and was a much-needed message for them to here. 

Nigeria-Borno State-Maiduguri

Nigeria – Borno State – Maiduguri

Maiduguri itself is a very interesting city. The roads are good, and wide, and maintained. There’s ample evidence of city planning. There were sidewalks and flood management ditches. It felt much more like the Middle East than it did to Jos and Abuja. It was also much cleaner than the other places I’ve been (although, the rivers still run with trash and every empty lot is a small landfill). The electrical system was bombed two years ago, so the entire city runs on either solar or generators. Also, it basically under full military occupation. It felt a lot like the West Bank at times, but it was nice to know the soldiers were actually there to protect the people this time. There was an attempted suicide bombing at a mosque in town my first night, two guys blew themselves up early and no one was seriously injured. I honestly only knew about it because I was checking the local news while I was there. I made sure to share it on social media so that no one else in the US that knows I’m here would find it first and worry.

IDP School at LCC Polo

IDP School at LCC Polo

Maiduguri has 22 IDP camps in it. We visited two of them and a school that some EYN IDPs started for IDP kids. They started the school because the government schools in the camps are Islamic schools, which makes sense, I don’t think we can really blame the government too much for that. It seems that EYN, in particular, is very adamant that their kids go only to Christian-based schools. So, since the government isn’t contributing to the IDP school in LCC Polo’s parking lot, UNICEF, UNHCR, Save the Children, the EU, Japan, EYN, and CoB have all contributed to this school of over 700 children with all volunteer teachers. One of the camps we visited, which is about the size of LCC Utako’s compound, houses 7,456 IDPs. We were going to visit more, but a lot of them have recently added people so they didn’t want to take me without a security detail and there wasn’t time to put one together (so the story goes). I spent most of my time with Kadala, we had a good time and had good conversation about trauma healing, the HROC model, and sustainable relief.

Smiles at the end of the Trauma workshop

Smiles at the end of the Trauma workshop

One concern that Dlama did bring to me was that the Rwandans weren’t all in IDP camps when they went through trauma healing. The Nigerian adaptation is supposed to bring tangible relief the week before trauma healing to fulfill some basic needs in the hierarchy of needs so that people can focus on the trauma healing process. This doesn’t always fully happen and, even when it does, there a real difficulty of participants finding transportation to the workshops since most of them are in IDP camps and have to go a distance to get to the workshops. Dlama ended up paying for the transportation of a few participants out of pocket. Also, everyone thought it was hilarious when I ate egusi soup with my hands with them.

The only hang-up I had in Maiduguri was an argument I had with immigration when I was flying out who claimed that I should have a work visa instead of a tourist visa. I must’ve answered a question wrong without thinking or something. I eventually got him laughing and got him to let it go. It also took a while for me to convince them that I wasn’t U.S. Army, U.N., or a Journalist when I got there. That was pretty funny (:

 

Youth Peace Travel Team – Camp Brethren Woods and Annual Conference


IMG_8315.edited
This past week the team enjoyed a few days at Brethren Woods and then was off to a very busy schedule at Annual Conference. At Brethren Woods, we led one session with each unit, focusing on our “Just Peace” workshop, in which campers think about how different questions are just or unjust. At Annual Conference, we did this same session with junior high and senior high participants at the age group activities. Another exciting part of our time at Annual Conference was leading games, crafts, and storytelling with the K-2 activities! It was quite a busy week traveling from Maryland to Virginia, to North Carolina, and ending in Florida – but it was filled with learning, sharing, fellowship, and fun.

Hey, y’all! Wow, what a great week. I absolutely LOVED getting to go to Brethren Woods and Annual Conference. First of all, I spent a week counseling at Brethren Woods last summer, so it was really fun to go to a place where I was at least a little familiar and had some previous ties too. Not to mention, I go to school near Harrisonburg so it felt like going home in a way. The people there were amazing and we got to spend some time talking with the staff as well as connecting with campers. I even saw a few of my campers from last year! Also, a former Youth Peace Travel Team member even helped us with a family meeting, providing some extra guidance and insight, and encouragement. I hated to leave so early, but going to Annual Conference was pretty amazing too. I got to see some of my church family for the first time in a while, and I realized just how much I missed them. The business was really great-despite differences in belief and theology; what I was able to listen in on sounded respectful and loving. Worship spoke so strongly to this, too. Discussing our differences and working through conflict in love, and doing all of this with Christ as the center through which we are united, is crucial. We also experienced some great discussion in our sessions with the youth, and we got to help serve in a number of different booths and activities. I think what I loved most, though, was seeing people from my home congregation, past and present. Their love and encouragement means so much to me and I really loved getting to spend some quality time with them. Overall it was a great week, and I’m excited to be heading to Florida next! I hope Camp Ithiel is ready for us!
– Phoebe

Greetings pals!
We have just finished up our time at Brethren Woods and Annual Conference. It has been one of our busier weeks so far in my opinion. So many things to do and people to see! One of my highlights from the week was having our weekly “family meeting” hosted by a former YPTT member at Brethren Woods. This was our most difficult family meeting yet. And seeing that this was our most difficult meeting and how smooth and full of love it was, is an insight to the blessing it is to be working with this group of individuals. Our Brethren Woods mentor ended our meeting time with some feedback, saying “I am amazed that you are able to speak so intentionally to each other.” This phrase really touched my heart. Even though we all come from different places, different working styles, and different personalities it is always a joy to come together for a shared passion of peace, justice, and camp. My favorite thing about being a part of this team is getting to dive into what it means to live peacefully and actively love our neighbors and then having the immediate opportunity to live out our teachings. I am so blessed and respected by these gals, I hope to take the message of speaking the truth in love with me anywhere God may lead me. It was also one of God’s many well timed plans, that this lesson touched my heart right before Annual Conference. I was nervous about going into this conference as a young adult with so many “controversial” topics at hand. However, I was amazingly pleased to see everyone speaking their truth in respectful fashions. Even as communications get tough, days get long, and we become tired. We are all children of God. We are all called to be peacemakers.

Blessings,
Kiana

Although our time was short at Brethren Woods, I would like to thank the staff for the especially warm welcome that we received. One of the many blessings of this summer for me has been the chance to engage with young adults in leadership in the church. One of my favorite activities to lead and participate in this summer has quickly become an exercise from our Just Peace workshop. Each individual must decide if they think a certain activity is just, unjust, or somewhere in the middle. We encourage counselors to participate and each week, I am humbled by the contributions that they graciously provide. Each help me think about the questions in a new way, which I can then share with campers in upcoming weeks. From this week, I will remember that perhaps sitting with someone new could be made more just by inviting them to the table where others are already sitting and invite them into the community.

During the remainder of the week as we attended Annual Conference, I was further blessed by extraordinary fellowship as I reconnected with members of my church who have supported me throughout my faith journey, shared further time with many new friends from this summer, and developed a greater connection to the church through interactions with strangers bonded by our shared faith. I was again inspired particularly by the young adults in the church. One night we gathered together to meet the moderator-elect, and as I looked around the room I saw pastors, members of Brethren Volunteer Service, social justice activists, students, and a lot of friends. I cherish these relationships as role models, for I too can live out my faith at this point in my life.

Peace,
Sara

Hey everyone! What a week it was. Even though our time at Brethren Woods was short, I felt like we made an impact with the campers and counselors. From the minute we stepped in the door, the staff was welcoming us with their arms wide open, inviting us to join in on their Harry Potter Movie Marathon. During a break from watching movies, the team and a few counselors had a deep discussion about our faith journeys, how we viewed conflict resolution in relation to the Bible, and our path to discovering our individual theologies. It was really awesome to be able to share something so personal with each other and a new counselor on the first night we were at camp. I also really appreciate the bonds I quickly made with other counselors and campers who connected with me through our interactions outside of sessions.

At Annual Conference, I was refreshed to spend time with my church family and other friends in the larger denomination who I have formed relationships over the years of being involved in denominational activities. This being my first Annual Conference as an adult, I was interested to see the process of how business worked. It was really cool to see the delegates get through all of the queries essentially in one day. My favorite part from conference was my time with the K-2 activities. This is an age group the team will not see again this summer and it was awesome to witness their energy. I read a book to them called “What does peace feel like?” The book asks questions about peace through the different senses. When we got to the big question of what does peace feel like, one kid said, “Peace feels like it fills a hole in your heart.” Hearing these words from such young people are so inspiring to a young adult. This was just one of the many wise descriptions that the “youngins” said. My favorite question from the book was what does peace taste like, and many of the children answered, ICE CREAM! So with that being said, I will sign off with:

Peace, Love, and Ice Cream
Jenna

Youth Peace Travel Team – Camp Mardela

IMG_8229.edited

Wow! We’ve already finished our second camp! This past week we were on the beautiful Eastern Shore at Camp Mardela working with their Tweens Camp! It was such a joy to be with this age group; they were so ready to learn more about the Bible and accept Jesus as their Savior. Their questions amazed us, and our one-on-one conversations with campers and counselors created deep connections. Once again, it was hard to leave such an amazing camp at the end of the week. We all truly feel blessed to have visited such a beautiful place.

 

Greetings friends!

Our past week at Camp Mardela has touched my heart. I entered the week cautious about being able to relate to children at such a different part of their journey than me. Not that I had low expectations for these kids, I just haven’t had the chance to interact with people that age in quite a while. I have become quite comfortable in my own young adult settings. And what do you know, leadership at camp Mardela continually stressed the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone!! I was absolutely blown away by the children’s ability to participate in creating and interacting in a safe space. Our just peace session offered some space for conversation about war. After hearing from a variety of campers and hearing a variety of comments, I felt full with the Spirit. Even though some opinions may differ, we are all children of God. We offered our stances in love and listened with grace. The children at Camp Mardela taught me more than I had to teach them this week.

-Kiana

Hello again, fellow peace enthusiasts!

I cannot believe what an awesome week we’ve just had. A few times during the week, Mardela felt like something out of a movie – like when the giant bell rang for dinner, or when Chief Geita told jokes or announcements over the loud-speaker. It was a little surreal, but SO much fun. Not only was it fun, but we had such a meaningful experience. The leadership and counselors at Mardela were phenomenal, and I loved watching these staff connect so closely with the campers as well as each other. It was only one week, but still such amazing bonds were formed. My favorite part of the week was when our director, Laura, led the entire group during Thursday worship in telling each other something we gained at camp that week. I saw so many kids open up that night, and the Spirit was surely moving. The campers gained new friends, courage, new experiences, and closer relationships with God. I think I gained another home away from home! Mardela, and Inspiration Hills too, now both hold such a special place in my heart. I can’t wait to have more groups and places to fall in love with this summer. I’m sure this will be a recurring theme in the following weeks, but as Winnie the Pooh said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Until next time!

Phoebe

There are not enough words to express my appreciation and connection I feel to this camp. From the moment we were picked up at the airport, we were greeted with willing arms to show us to the wondrous Eastern Shore and saw the sunset over the bay. The next day we began to meet the staff. Some opened up quickly to us and others took a day or two to share conversation and jokes, but by Tuesday I felt a deep connection to a few of the staff their and started to have fun with them. On Tuesday, I was having a conversation with one member who truly inspired me. To preface, I have always been a fairly driven athlete. But there are always days when I know I have not worked as hard as I could and I know I could do better. This staff member was discussing his hardship of not being able to work out anymore after the loss of a limb. Later in the week, he shared his story about his recovery in connection to his drive he got from his military experience in his ability to recover from this loss. These motivational speeches, in his eyes may not have meant to motivate, but have really pushed me to keep my work ethic in check. I cannot remember all the reasons why but I felt like most of Thursday and Friday I was crying more often than not, hearing campers open up about what they want to change in the world/their families/themselves, seeing the staff become more of family (with us included), and witnessing these children’s faith grow. I cannot thank Camp Mardela enough for the time and space we had to share and for allowing us to be a part of their family for the week. It was truly a blessing.

Peace, Love, and Camp Mardela

Jenna

This past week was a time of great spiritual growth and nourishment for me. As all those who know me will tell you, I struggle with change. Warming up to new places, people, and ideas sometimes just takes me a little time. This summer is full of change as each state has a different environment, each district its own theological language, and each camper their own story. As part of our interpersonal conflict resolution workshop, we consider Matthew 18:15-20. We discuss how to talk to each other in love, by acknowledging the feelings and needs of each other as we seek to work through our conflicts. This week verse 20 really stuck out to me. From the New International Version it reads, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” At so many points, I really felt the presence of the Spirit as we gathered with campers and staff. As we worshiped around the campfire we were witness to the life struggles and faith journeys of all. As we discussed what is “just,” we joined as active participants in the discernment of how we live out faith, shaping the world in the process. This recognition of the God here in our interactions not only led me to connect powerfully with the campers and staff at Mardela, but also challenges me to reconsider my approach to change this summer. I hope over the coming weeks when entering a new place to remember the presence of God in each interaction, thus viewing the God in the change. Finally, I also want to especially thank Laura, the director for the week, as through her strong love and determination to bring Christ to those around her, she provided for me an example of how to live that I will not forget. This summer we have had the opportunity to meet and work with many strong passionate women in the church, and each one has empowered and challenged me in incredible ways and for that I am grateful.

Peace,

Sara

IMG_8288.edited

Our Stateless Brethren

 

A pastor for the Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic has witnessed the confusion and devastation spurred by the statelessness crisis that the Office of Public Witness wrote about in the previous blog. Battling a high court ruling can seem nearly impossible, but mitigating its impact by helping those affected is how he has been approaching the situation.

Brothers and sisters in this denomination, especially members living in bateyes and including young people and children, have been deprived of state documents, leading to an uncertain future. Brethren have helped one another travel to obtain, fill out, and return paperwork to regain citizenship, a process that many do not have the finances, orientation, or even motivation to complete. The pastor says that speaking out against this situation is risky, not only for the stateless individuals, but even for himself as a pastor. Some government officials, judges and nationalists are suspicious and sometimes spiteful toward those who oppose the court ruling due to their bias against those born of Haitian decent.

For the coming year, research will be carried out to determine how many church members in the affected groups got their legal documents through the regularization plan and how to help the children of those who refused or somehow did not get them documents. Another project will also be under way to visit each church and determine the exact number of cases of statelessness and document the details of each.

At the Greensboro Annual Conference 2016, an insight session will be led by Dominican Brethren and is called “Iglesia de los Hermanos—Looking Forward and Looking Onward”. These leaders will share updates and discuss the vision of the church in the Dominican Republic, in light of this issue and others.

Read the stories of this population at http://stories.minorityrights.org/dominican-republic/.

Watch the trailer for the upcoming documentary “Our lives in transit” / “Vidas en tránsito” here!

With hope,

Christy Crouse
Peacebuilding and Policy Intern
Office of Public Witness
Washington, DC