International Day of Peace- Showing Christ’s Love to Refugees

14358849_1357697974259959_1193283755563389818_nOn September 21st, brothers and sisters gathered all around the world for International Peace Day. At  the Washington City Church of the Brethren, a small community gathered around the peace pole in prayer. Josh Ammons delivered this reflection.

 

I was asked to speak on the refugee crisis on the International Day of Prayer for Peace. “A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.” Europe is facing the largest numbers of refugees since WWII. Most American refugees come from Africa and the Middle east. There is likely no group of people who need peace greater than refugees. Humanitarians of all types have great concern for the refugee crisis, but as Christians our concern for refugees is a part of our anthropology.

 

Many scholars argue that Jesus himself was born as a refugee. As Thomas Merton so eloquently writes:

“Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others who do not belong, who are rejected by power, because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world.”

 

Jesus instructed us to care for the refugees both by his words and deeds. In Matthew Jesus says:

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’

Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’

And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’”

 

Jesus spent much of his time on this earth healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and spending time with the downtrodden of society. But many claim that the refugees are not just poor, sick, and hungry, but also a threat to our society. Jesus’ life shows examples of how we should treat those who threaten to upend our way of life in his final miracle. Jesus had just been betrayed by Judas, and the high priests were taking Jesus away to what would later be a death sentence. Simon Peter was likely overcome with fear that the life he had known as a disciple would be forever changed. He probably felt the need to defend the Jesus that he loved by any means necessary. In the heat of the moment, he struck the high priest’s servant’s ear with a sword in defense of Jesus. This man’s name was Malchus and we would become the last man to experience the healing grace of Christ before his crucifixion. Jesus healed his ear, and in this moment he showed us how we should treat those who we are afraid of. Historians say that Simon Peter died as a martyr for a faith that instructed us to love even those who we are most afraid of. As it states in Matthew:

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also; if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well; and if someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even Gentiles do the same?

Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”

 

Much debate can be had over issues of national security, but as Christians we are called to walk through our fears with faith in God’s teachings. Whether or not refugees are viewed by us as friends or foes, the Gospel commands us to treat them as brothers and sisters. The love Christ calls us to is not easy, even for great Christians like Simon Peter, but we serve a Powerful God who restores us when we repent and turn toward the love of Christ.

 

Prayer for refugees and victims of war

Lord God,

no one is a stranger to you

and no one is ever far from your loving care.

In your kindness, watch over refugees and victims of war,

those separated from their loved ones,

young people who are lost,

and those who have left home or who have run away from

home.

Bring them back safely to the place where they long to be

and help us always to show your kindness

to strangers and to all in need

Grant this through Christ our Lord.


 

1.http://www.plough.com/en/subscriptions/daily-dig/odd/november/daily-dig-for-november-29

2.http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1514

 

Help for widows and their children

 

EYN Director of Women's Ministry, Suzan Mark and her assistant. (photo by Carl Hill)

EYN Director of Women’s Ministry, Suzan Mark and her assistant. (photo by Carl Hill)

The Women’s Ministry of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN) is beginning a special project for the many widows that are the result of the Boko Haram violence in Northeast Nigeria. The project is funded by Nigeria Crisis Funds. Over 5000 widows have been identified in the EYN church. Being a widow is very difficult in Nigeria; and since many of the widows are young; they do not have children who can support them. In fact most of them have young children of their own that they are struggling to provide for.

Widows wait for relief materials (photo by Donna Parcell at a CCEPI distribution)

Widows wait for relief materials (photo by Donna Parcell at a CCEPI distribution)

The project will teach 50 widows a skill so that they can start their own business. Also 35 of their children will be given scholarships for school fees. The director of a relief organization in Nigeria reported the following about education, “611 teachers have died as a result of the terrorism in the north east; 19,000 teachers have been displaced, 1500 schools have closed down, and 950,000 children have been denied the opportunity of accessing education.”

Orphans at Favored Sisters School (photo by Donna Parcell)

Orphans at Favored Sisters School (photo by Donna Parcell)

 

The problem is so big and there are so many widows to help, it may seem like we are not doing much, but like the story of the starfish, we are making an incredible difference for some. Imagine hearing the stories of so many and having to select only 50 to help.

 

 

Here are some facts about a few of the women chosen.

Rejoice David from DCC Gwoza, a widow at camp in Maiduguri. Her husband was taken away by Boko Haram to Sambiza, but was slaughtered there when he refused to deny his faith. He left behind 6 children 4 girls and 2 boys as follows:                                     Emmanuel David 18 years, Elizabeth David 15 years, James David 13 years, Sarah David 11 years, Juliana David 8 years, Lilian David 4 years                                                 Rejoice was selected for training in sewing and Elizabeth was chosen for assistance in payment of school fees

Widows (photo by Donna Parcell)

Widows (photo by Donna Parcell)

Sarah John a 27 years old widow at DCC Maiduguri was a Muslim convert who was married to a Christian named John. Her husband was killed after 6 years of marriage by Boko Haram leaving her with 2 children, a boy and a girl. She has been in camp for some years now. Both her parents and that of the husband refused to take care of her because their faith is not the same. We considered her case as special so her two children, (Ayuba John 5 years old and Rifkatu John 3 years old) were selected for scholarship and Sarah requested to join training for sewing, which was granted.

Hannatu Haruna 9 years and Racheal Haruna 7 years are complete orphans. Boko Haram killed both parents and they are now staying with their old grandmother at Kiffi. They were selected for school fees scholarships.

 

Special

Workcampers in Kyle, S.D. Photo by Jennifer Coale

Workcampers in Kyle, S.D.
Photo by Jennifer Coale

As Rachel Berry from the hit Fox television show Glee proclaimed when she received her Tony Award, explicating a lesson she learned from her high school choir teacher Mr. Schuester, “Being a part of something special does not make you special. Something is special because you are a part of it.” That is how I see each of the participants and directors who came to Church of the Brethren workcamps this summer. Their enthusiasm, beautiful personalities, and tenacious willingness to serve in the Lord’s name coalesced at each and every workcamp as they grew as individuals and as newly-gathered communities. Workcamps provide unique opportunities, but it is the participants who come and serve who make the time together special.

Now that the workcamp season is over, I miss the workcampers every day. In looking through pictures, all of the memories of bumps in the road are juxtaposed with the fantastically fun and silly moments, the incredibly meaningful moments, and the insightful faith moments. And somehow, amidst everything that happened this summer, it is the good stuff that stands out the most.

Getting stuck in the rain after a dinner cookout but spending time getting to know one another, or playing hacky sack in the courtyard of a homeless shelter with a new friend, or playing group games that bring out the deepest laughter, or singing songs in the van together as we ride along to the evening activity—these are the moments that warm my heart, that flit through my mind as I prepare for a new year of workcamps.

I could tell you about all of the work that went into this past summer, the ways I have changed, and the many places I have traveled to, but really, I could jabber on and on about the lasting memories that I spent having fun and learning with the workcampers and directors. I feel blessed to be on this journey, to have God leading me through these workcamps, and picking me up when I make mistakes. I feel blessed to be a part of this body of believers who spend time at a workcamp to serve and to be served, to meet new friends and rekindle previous friendships, to grow in faith and to share faith with others. And because of all of this, I feel special.

Deanna Beckner served as an assistant workcamp coordinator with Amanda McLearn-Montz for the 2016 workcamp season, and will continue serving for the 2017 season with Shelley Weachter. Learn more about the Workcamp Ministry at www.brethren.org/workcamps or support it today at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Fellowship Tour August 2016 (Part 2)

By Jessie Marsiglio

Picture by Donna Parcell Visiting Gurku (new teacher Sarah Robert on lower right)

Picture by Donna Parcell
Visiting Gurku (new teacher Sarah Robert on lower right)

We visited IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps and were greeted so warmly that the women even had us join them in singing and dancing.  At the Gurku site (this was the one Markus had started with both Christians and Muslims) we saw the solar system of water that had just been installed to provide constant clean water supply for the camp. Each camp needs a similar system.

All the children need the discipline, structure and education of a school.  Prayers were answered the Friday we were at Gurku when Sarah Robert arrived to be the teacher of a school.  She will be working with camp leaders to begin officially.  We gave her our blessings and some school and recreation supplies.

Picture by Donna Parcell Jessie at Favored Sister's School

Picture by Donna Parcell
Jessie at Favored Sister’s School

We visited Favored Sisters School and were greeted with the children’s singing.  Since school was out for the summer, we interacted only with the orphans who lived there.  As much fun as we had with sports and activities, I noticed some somber-faced children standing apart from everything.  One older boy was wearing a pink girl Jacket that was way too small for him but he would not remove it even though the day was hot — it was his security. He hesitated at first to join in any games but eventually his curiosity overcame his fear of us.  He would not talk or smile until near the end and it was the brightest smile ever. One older girl hung back but kept watch on all activities.  When I needed to go to the bathroom she was asked to escort me.  I asked her name and she said Susan when I immediately told her a story of a Susanna and ended it with and “Susana grew in favor with God and was very beautiful” just as she (Susan) was beautiful.” She smiled for the first time and held my hand the rest of the day.

The best visit of the week for any purpose was when we revisited this school.  The children realized that we were more than just one-timers and that we really did care about them.  They had all increased their skills at the activities we left with them and were eager to share with us.  My boy with the jacket still had on the pink jacket but immediately joined the group.  Susan grabbed my hand and played with us.  Such a change in these two just because we showed that we cared.   I hope this change continues and they are able to overcome the horrors they must have faced.

Picture by Jessie Widow learning to sew

Picture by Jessie Marsiglio
Widow learning to sew

My heart bleeds for the children and we need to do everything for them.  But we also need to work with the women. My personal opinion, my hope and prayer is that we are able to teach the widows to be self-supporting and return them to their home area when it is safe.  CoB has scheduled some work camp to help repair/rebuild homes for them.  But unless the widows have means to provide for themselves the widows will remain helpless.  At Gurku, the widows are tending crops and the catfish ponds which will teach agricultural skills.  We visited two organizations who are training in computer, sewing, soap making, etc.; this is a help but each organization can only manage a few trainees at a time.

We need more facilities and maybe even more variety of jobs training.  If these widows are not normalized soon we might face generations of dependency and we cannot afford it nor do the women want that.

I was sad to leave Nigeria and hope someday to return.

 

Watching for the Spirit

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Gardeners gathered for the Going to the Garden retreat and vision meeting. Photo by Growing Power

A reflection by Nathan Hosler, director of the Office of Public Witness

It was late March a few years ago, and the winter chill seemed to be breaking. Since the day was beautiful and I was feeling good, I decided, mid-run, to go a little farther. After crossing the Anacostia River at the 11th Street bridge, I continued along the riverside trail. The morning sun was shining on my left shoulder and my back as I trotted on the bike trail, tall and dry meadow grass on both sides. I then saw a red-winged blackbird. It was perched and wobbling on a plant. The bird tipped toward me and then—as I caught a full view of red-orange patches illuminated in direct morning sunlight—it took flight.

A few days before Pentecost this year, I was running in the morning, again. This time it was in Wisconsin at a Going to the Garden retreat and vision meeting. On this particular run through the farmland I noticed a wild turkey take flight—fast, heavy, barreling through the sky just above the field. Upon returning to our lodging, I paused next to a flowering bush and watched hummingbirds flit and dip.

We had gathered to watch for the Spirit with gardeners from the lower ninth ward in New Orleans, Maryland, Alaska, and near a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. Going to the Garden began several years ago as a way to encourage and support congregations to engage their communities and address food insecurity and hunger. This project has been a joint effort between the Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., and the Global Food Initiative (formerly the Global Food Crisis Fund).

Most of the gardeners did not start with a grand plan but caught a glimpse of a new possible reality. In Alaska, a connection with people from the Gwich’in First Nation was formed through a shared experience of hunting, which led to a new relationship and an invitation to return. Through this relationship, we learned about the health challenges of the Gwich’in community, and consequently drew Brethren to garden there every summer for nearly 10 years.

From the Wisconsin gathering emerged the idea of garden advocates. Several interested Going to the Garden partners will be able to apply for funding through the Global Food Initiative to fund a member of their local community to become a garden advocate. These advocates will work to expand the capacity of the projects, engage with the Office of Public Witness in local and national level advocacy as it relates to food security and hunger, and provide additional support for publicity and outreach.

We have heard stories of efforts meeting community needs for food, connections forming between churches and their communities, youth being empowered, grandparents in Native American communities sharing food-growing knowledge with youth, and how valuable denominational staff have been for support. The movement of the Spirit has been evident and noted. Many of these stories have and will continue to show up in places likes Messenger magazine, the Going to the Garden Facebook page and webpage, and on YouTube.

The Holy Spirit often is pictured as a dove. I don’t want to claim too much for the red-winged blackbird, the hummingbird, or even the turkey, but the flight of these birds is a reminder of the movement of God all around us. While denominational structures shift, individuals in leadership change, and programs morph for new vision, the Spirit continues to move.

As we continue to watch for the Spirit, I invite you to support the ongoing work of the Office of Public Witness, and all of the ministries of the Church of the Brethren, both financially and prayerfully. Your partnership is essential for the ongoing work of these programs, and it is only through your support that these ministries continue.

Learn more about the work of the Office of Public Witness at www.brethren.org/witness or support it today at www.brethren.org/give .

Grandparents’ Prayer

Grandmother baking with grandson

Photo by Donna Cosmato


Holy God, Eternal Parent, Author of love and grace, we pray for grandparents, great grandparents and all who stand in the line of generations.

Thank you for the blessed gift of children to love and cherish. Thank you for grandchildren and great grandchildren who will carry forgiveness and love into the future, who see your blessed presence in the lives of the least of these among us and who raise up the banner of hope in a hopeless world.

As you, in the model of the Savior, showed us agapé love, seventy times seven forgiveness and going to the cross because of that love, we pray for all grandparents that agape’ love remains a lifestyle, a normal mode of living among all your children of every race and nation.

Forgive us our trespasses, sins and debts when we rely on threats and violence to, in our minds, correct those around us. Grant us the grace of discovery finding peaceful modes to carry the forgiving cross for those we may not like, agree with or appreciate.

On this precious Grandparents’ Day, transform us into people who preach and practice using the heavenly peacemaking ministries you’ve given us. Remake our minds, in old age, remodeling them into fit vessels for the new wine flowing from your New Jerusalem. Grant us grace to support and join the march our grandchildren are walking. Help us celebrate the new day and new life promised in Jesus, your Son, our Savior.

We praise the one who gave us new birth and renews us every day as we pass on the Good News stories of your magnificent grace. Give us ears to hear the language of that Good News as our grandchildren are telling it, bringing us to rejoicing in your ever-living new wine presence among us.

We pray this in Jesus name, promising to take seriously the saving grace and ministry of being faith-filled grandparents. Amen!

J. Lyle (Jim) Kinsey is grandfather to 4 wonderful young women

Statelessness in the Dominican Republic

If you think back on your day, can you count the ways your citizenship affected you? Being a member of a country is an intangible concept many take for granted. However, this privilege affects almost every aspect of our daily lives.

Statehood

Statehood simply means belonging to a country. The term nationality, or belonging to a nation, is also commonly used, as is the term citizenship. This concept seems simple, but the way statehood is assigned can be complex. There are two general ways countries determine statehood. One system is based on birthplace. This is often referred to as jus soli, or “right of soil.” Another system, jus sanguinis, is based on national or ethnic lineage. This literally translates to “right of blood.” This is more complicated because it can be based on maternal or paternal lineage and first or older generations.

The norm in the Western Hemisphere, an area marked by a history of momentous immigration, is to base statehood on jus soli. If a newborn baby is granted statehood where he or she is born, it is unlikely that the person will become stateless. Therefore, there are few areas in the Western Hemisphere with a significant population of stateless people.

The Development of Jus Sanguinis in the Dominican Republic

Over time, the Dominican Republic contradicted the hemisphere’s norm of jus soli. In the Dominican Republic, about 200,000 people are currently stateless. Most of these people are of Haitian descent. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share an island historically known as Hispaniola. Spanish and French settlers came to the island in the 15th century. They all but annihilated the indigenous population and brought many people from Africa as slaves. In the 17th century, Spain ceded the Western third of the island to France. The French portion of the island became Haiti, and the Spanish portion became the Dominican Republic. The two countries have long and complex histories, but until 1937 they shared a fluid border.

In 1937, the dictator Trujillo ordered the genocide of thousands of Dominican residents with Haitian heritage. The differentiation of ethnicity was largely based on dialect and physical features. Haitians are generally considered “more Black.” Trujillo wanted the Dominican Republicans to be associated with their Spanish ancestors and not considered Black, despite his own Haitian heritage. This racial prejudice undergirds much of the discrimination of Haitians. There is also a socio-economic component to the discrimination: present-day Haiti is significantly poorer than the Dominican Republic. Many Haitians have immigrated to the Dominican Republic for economic opportunity, and work in agricultural and service sectors.

During the 20th century, the Dominican Republic continued to offer citizenship to people who were born in the country despite their parents’ historical statehood. However, there were periodic reports of people being refused birth certificates or other documents based on their presumed ethnic heritage. In 2005, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights specifically investigated this issue, finding the country’s current practice and application of law to be a discriminatory infringement of the Republic’s constitution.

The Sentence

The Dominican Republic did not respond well to being rebuked. In 2013, a woman who had previously been issued a birth certificate was told that her certificate was invalid based on the fact that her parents were immigrants. She brought her case before the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal (think Supreme Court). At this time, the court interpreted the constitution to mean that children of undocumented parents are not eligible for citizenship. The interpretation was applied unanimously and retroactively, meaning anyone who was born after 1929 was subject to the judgement. Immediately, about 200,000 Dominicans’ citizenship were annulled. Not eligible for citizenship elsewhere, they became stateless.

Las afectados

The individuals who were stripped of their statehood are known colloquially as las afectados or “the affected.” The implications of being statelessness are far reaching. Without statehood, an individual cannot get a passport, legally work, marry, open a bank account or get a loan, get a driver’s license, vote, or attend school. Individuals are also not subject to protections of the legal system and may not see justice for crimes such as assault or rape.

The Dominican executive branch enacted a pathway to re-naturalization. Those without citizenship were eligible to re-apply until February 28th, 2015, but they needed several state-issued documents.   The deadline for submitting the required documentation was May 31st, 2015. On that date, all who had not successfully completed applications or had declined applications were eligible for deportation. Only about 9,000 of the 200,000 stateless persons successfully completed applications.

One might ask: to where could stateless individuals be deported?  Some of those affected are living in migrant camps on the border. Last year, about 4,000 people were estimated to be living in these camps.

Response:

While there is significant support of The Sentence in the Dominican Republic, many have pushed back, including our fellow Brethren. The Church of the Brethren was founded in the Dominican Republic in the wake of disaster response work following a hurricane in 1979. Today, the Dominican Brethren include about 1,650 members in 21 congregations.

The Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic actively supported its stateless members.  One way the church was able to do this was through the naturalization process. Brethren Disaster Ministries and Global Mission and Service financially supported this effort.

Church World Service (CWS) has distributed emergency supplies to camps in the form of meat, hygiene kits, blankets, and baby kits (when the Church of the Brethren Disaster Ministries collects kits, they are distributed by Church World Service).

Reflection:

Exodus 22:21–23: “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.”

 

Creator God, we pause to remember those who are stateless, living in limbo. Grant us the courage to care for them; they are connected to us by our shared heritage of your creation. We pray for those who are already acting as Jesus’ hands and feet, working with the oppressed. We ask you to illuminate the ways we can engage our churches, communities, and governments to eliminate statelessness.

Further Reading and Sources:

 

Blake: Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Race-Based Statelessness in the Americas

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2450631

Church World Service: Emergency Situation Report Update: Haiti-Dominican Republic Statelessness

http://cwsglobal.org/emergency-situation-report-update-haiti-dominican-republic-statelessness/

Nolan: Displaced in the D.R. A country strips 210,000 of citizenship

http://harpers.org/archive/2015/05/displaced-in-the-d-r/

Church of the Brethren: Global Mission and Service-Haiti

http://www.brethren.org/global/haiti.html

Church of the Brethren: Partners- Dominican Republic

http://www.brethren.org/global2/dr/?referrer=https://www.google.com/

State of Uncertainty: Citizenship, Statelessness and Discrimination in the Dominican Republic

http://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1112&context=iclr

 

Related  posts on Statelessness in the Dominican Republic:

 

http://blog.brethren.org/2016/virtual-ghosts-an-update-on-statelessness-in-the-dr/

http://blog.brethren.org/2014/statelessness-the-least-of-these-nationality-identity-and-when-you-have-neither/

http://blog.brethren.org/2016/our-stateless-brethren/

http://blog.brethren.org/2015/ebrethren-7-30-15/

 

With peace,

 

Stephanie Robinson

Some Highlights – Fellowship Tour August 2016 (Part 1)

Jessie with Carl & Roxane Hill

Jessie with Carl & Roxane Hill

(by Jessie Marsiglio, PSWD Pomona Fellowship CoB)

From America we set off with expectations and ideas that were quickly squelched.  We thought Nigerian life would mimic our sheltered American existences.  Americans MUST have kitchen appliances, good paved roads, uninterrupted utilities and internet, well stocked grocery stores and every other convenience of our everyday life.  But we found no appliances, potholed and muddy roads, intermittent utilities and internet, street/bazaar vendors, garbage routinely piled on the sides and median of the roads, constant military checkpoints.  AND THAT WAS THE FIRST DAY.

But despite all that, all the people we encountered were friendly and loving, helpful, kind and generous.  The poorest of the poor, the homeless in the IDP (internally displaced persons) camps have hope for better days — so much so that the light of God shines in their entire faces and actions.  The Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN) staff and pastors all were hopeful that we would carry their stories back to the States for all to know.  We also met with leaders in the community and heads of non-EYN organizations who befriended us and talked about their efforts and hopes.

Destroyed Bridge

                   Destroyed Bridge

Travel throughout Nigeria was difficult but we had fantastic drivers who avoided (as much as possible) potholes and road blocks and who deflected the military checks.  Evidence of Boka Haram (BH) invasion and Nigerian military actions were still evident on every road.  One specific bridge had been destroyed to halt the BH and to cross it we went down and back upward on 90 degree angles.  Markus jokingly said we should walk the bridge and I took him up on that challenge.  As I got to the bottom of the rubble and started up the other side, I had such a feeling of wonderment, scare, etc.; and I think I must have felt the same as the Nigerians as they first crossed that bridge.

Destroyed and temporary church at Michika

Before the BH, the church at Michika had had three services on the first three Sundays of the month with one combined on the fourth for a combined total of 3000 members.  BH waited until the benediction on that fourth Sunday before shelling the church.  Now the congregation is reduced to 2000 who meet in a tent next to the bombed out church building.   We swore we could still smell the ashes of the burned books in the library. Everyone is looking forward to the reconstruction of the church as they prepare to rebuild in the next few months (drawings of the     plans are posted on the walls). We also visited another damaged church and spoke with the two pastors.  They are holding the congregation together but have no idea when their building will be repaired.  This apparently is the norm for many of the destroyed churches. Check out  http://www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis/action.html to see how to join a workcamp to rebuild churches in Nigeria.

Pictures by Hills, Kendra Harbeck and Sarah Rae Parcell

Amazing

Mark Flory Steury at the Church of the Brethren General Offices. Photo by Dewayne Heck

Mark Flory Steury at the Church of the Brethren General Offices.
Photo by Dewayne Heck

By Mark Flory Steury, Donor Relations representative

“It’s amazing how much the Church of the Brethren is able to do.”

This is a comment I hear often as I talk with congregational leaders and pastors about the denominational work of the Church of the Brethren. It has been my joy to visit many congregations over the past five years, and to thank them for being so generous! For well over one hundred years, congregations have faithfully supported the work of the church through their offerings.

When I visit a congregation, we talk about the ways the Church of the Brethren is currently serving in ministry both domestically and abroad. Globally we have partners in Nigeria, India, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Haiti, Spain, South Sudan and many other places. We help people in times of need through Brethren Disaster Ministries, Children’s Disaster Services, and the Global Food Initiative. Volunteers serve as the hands and feet of Jesus through Brethren Volunteer Service and Workcamps. These are some of the ways that we extend the love of God to others.

We also provide resources for churches and individuals across the country. We support the work of new churches through the Church Planting Conference. We equip church leaders and members through the work of Congregational Life Ministries, the Ministry Office, and Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leaderships, and through materials like Vital Ministry Journey, the Anabaptist Worship Exchange, the Shine curriculum, and webinars. Faith-forming, community-fostering conferences and programs are provided throughout the year like National Junior High Conference, Christian Citizenship Seminar, Ministry Summer Service, National Young Adult Conference, and National Older Adult Conference. Conversation and information are shared through Newsline and Messenger magazine. We also have wonderful historical resources preserved through the Brethren Historical Library and Archives. This is just a brief overview of the many ministries we do together!

Amazing! How is the Church of the Brethren able to do all of this? It’s only with the support of congregations and individuals who are willing to work together for a common mission and ministry.

It is remarkable how much the Church of the Brethren is able to do. Thank you so much for your awesome support. We can do this work only because of your partnership. May God bless us as we continue in our work together.

Learn more about the ministries of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org or support them today at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Summer at Gurku Interfaith Camp

Dr Yakubu, Markus and John Joseph

(l to r) Dr Yakubu, Markus and John Joseph

As reported by John Joseph (Camp coordinator and administrator)

Gurku Crops

Gurku Crops

Summer is rainy season in Nigeria. It’s time for planting. $2500 from Church of the Brethren support provided seeds, fertilizer and herbicides. Thanks to an abundant rainfall, the crops are growing nicely. As the new crops grow, food from last years crop tends to run out. 22 families were really suffering and COB funds were able to provide help. Gurku is a long way from a hospital. There is a clinic built by the Swiss Embassy but it is always a struggle to have enough medicines on hand. There have been four deaths (all women) so far this year. Funds have been used for medicines, hospital visits and funerals.

Vaccines

Vaccines from Zawram Islamic Global Foundation

 

Help from Others –  Zawram Islamic Global Foundation brought vaccines for hepatitis. Marie Stopes Nigeria did some medical tests, Voice of Mathias Group brought bicycles, books, Bibles and mats. A Nigerian engineer brought food items.

Positives from this summer   1)The camp organized meetings and dialogue so Muslims and Christians could meet to address needs in the community. 2) Gifts were given to help Muslim families celebrate Sallah (a big Muslim holiday). 3) A guesthouse was built and partially furnished. 4) Water has been plentiful due to the solar powered pump. 5) Head teacher/ administrator has been relocated to the camp

Never enough medicine

Never enough medicine

Continued Challenges   1) Cost of medical help  2) Distant relatives who have heard of the camp ask for monetary assistance. 3) More  homes are needed to house the numerous families still without a place to live. 4)  More kitchens need to be built. 5) Classrooms for the over 200 pupils  6) Families continue to hear of attacks on relatives in the Madagali and Gwoza area.