True Colors

"May we never be afraid to show our true colors..."  Photo by Cherise Glunz

“May we never be afraid to show our true colors…”
Photo by Cherise Glunz

By Nathan Hollenberg, pastor at Linville Creek Church of the Brethren in Broadway, Va.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

I always find myself eager for fall weather, my favorite season! Recently I read a fascinating and very scientific article about the changing colors of leaves during fall. Essentially the individual who wrote this article argued that when the leaves change their colors we are actually seeing the trees’ “true colors” instead of our typically held belief that tree leaves are naturally green.

Without going into too much scientific detail the point is that leaves get their green appearance during the spring and summer because they produce high levels of chlorophyll, which aids in photosynthesis and helps the plant produce food. As the days grow shorter and fall arrives this process breaks down and the chlorophyll dis­sipates, causing the green color of leaves to fade and the “true color” of the leaves to be seen. It’s interesting that it is this time of year, when the tree dies back, that we often think trees are at their “peak” beauty. I have always found the changing of the leaves to be awe inspiring and especially beautiful here where I live, in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Perhaps we would rather leave the science out of it and simply appreciate the miracle of the seasons God has included in creation.

However, for me, this idea of the trees showing their “true colors” reminded me of a reality of faith mirrored in the Galatians passage above. Just as trees show their true beauty, their true colors, through a process of letting go, we too have been called to die to self and to let go so that the glory and beauty of God may shine through. We have been “crucified with Christ” so that Christ would become visible in our lives. It seems sometimes that it is in letting go of all our busyness and the hard work that so often distracts us that we allow our true beauty found in Christ to shine forth. Fall is often one of these busy seasons as school starts back up, sports seasons get under way, and our yards need attending. Perhaps then this season of autumn is an ap­propriate time to remember to slow down and rediscover the beauty of Christ in you.

Recognize that it is Christ who lives in and through us in order to reveal the beauty and majesty of God. May we never be afraid to show our true colors, giving God the praise and adoration as we discover that beauty in us and in others.

This reflection was originally featured in the October issue of Messenger magazine. Learn more about the ministries of the Church of the Brethren at or support them  at .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Livelihoods Empower Many

Praise God for the release of 21 Chibok girls. We continue to lift them up in prayer with the many challenges they will now face. Our disaster work continues on many fronts. Here is a report on some of our livelihood projects.

Livelihoods are Empowering!

         Livelihoods are Empowering!

Two of our Non-Government Organizations are providing Livelihoods to those effected by the Insurgency. This is an incredible gift that gives people a way to help themselves. Businesses that have been provided include:  bean-cake making, grinding machines, peanut processing, sewing machines, knitting machines, computers, soap making, providing seeds and fertilizer as well as goats and chickens.

These Livelihood gifts are such a blessing to those who receive them. 1000 people apply for the 200 businesses that are available. The NGO’s provide training on using the gifts as well as teaching them how to run a business successfully. Then they follow up with the recipients to monitor their success.

One of our NGO’s focused on seeds and fertilizer during the growing season. The other NGO has built centers for the training and graduates 2-4 classes a year. Here are some testimonies and pictures:

Maise Farm

Maize Farm

“Where will I start from, you can testify for yourself how the farm materials helped my farming activities, my farm became the talk of the town especially my maize farm; it has never been like this before.  I am very much grateful to you and to the people that gave you money to help us, may God Almighty continue to bless all of you. Thank you”.

Recipients of Rice seeds and fertilizer.

Recipients of Rice seeds and fertilizer.

“Sincerely speaking, if not because of the farm inputs especially fertilizer, my farm will not produce enough food that can sustain my family throughout the year. I can say that God send you to salvage us from Hunger. Thank you very Much and God bless.’’



Students learning to sew

Students learning to sew

SEWING & KNITTING at the Yola Livelihood Center 

The Livelihood Center taught the students on how to cut and sew wrappers and skirts. Different styles were shown to them including what is called pencil skirts. After making sure that the students understood it, pieces of material were given to them to practice  using the sewing machine.

Knitting training at the Livelihood Center

Knitting training at the Livelihood Center

The knitting students have learned how to knit babies caps, socks and sweaters.  They can now make cardigans for sale and some of them are already in the business

Reflection on Conflict in South Sudan

Jillian Foerster served her Brethren Volunteer Service term in South Sudan in 2011-2013, only months after it gained independence from Sudan and became its own country.  Jillian has since completed her masters degree in international relations with a focus on Africa and is now working on U.S.- Africa policy and economic development in the region.  She shares from her extensive personal experience and research to help us better understand the struggles facing this young country.

In November 2011, I boarded a plane headed towards East Africa to serve as a BVSer in South Sudan. I was headed to work with a small, church-led peace building organization called RECONCILE, based in a town called Yei, located in the southern part of the country, near Uganda.

After decades of civil war with Sudan, South Sudan was struggling to overcome generations of widespread poverty and underdevelopment along with the deep trauma brought on by a legacy of violent conflict.  Nonetheless, after two years of working in Yei and forming new friendships in my community, I learned that South Sudanese men and women are fiercely resilient and were excited to start rebuilding their new nation for themselves and their children.

I left my BVS placement in December 2013. A week and a half after my departure, the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, announced a coup in the capital of Juba by the former Vice President, Riek Machar. This signaled the launch of a new civil war.

While the situation is complex, there are essentially three different crises occurring in South Sudan: a security crisis, an economic crisis, and a crisis of leadership.

Security Crisis: Hundreds of thousands have already died in conflict or as a result of displacement since 2013. South Sudan has now unfortunately joined an unhappy club along with Afghanistan, Somalia, and Syria, all of which have conflicts that have generated more than 1 million refugees. Counting the internally displaced (the legal designation given to people who still remain inside the country, whereas refugees are those that are outside of their home country), approximately one-third of South Sudan’s population have been forced to flee their homes due to violence.  Ethnicity plays a big role in the perpetration of violence, pitting neighbors against each other and carving deeper scars into an already fractured country.

While these numbers appear daunting, I used to rest assured that at least the people I knew remained safe in Yei, a town with a reputation of remaining peaceful even as much of the rest of the country is plunged into violence. However, there are now reports that indiscriminate killings have started taking place in the town. As of last week, the UN has warned that 100,000 people are now trapped in Yei, surrounded by armed actors.

Economic crisis: Even during my BVS term, a time of relative stability, , most of the population struggled to pay school fees for their children or get access to basic health care. Indeed, South Sudan has long been one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world with only one paved highway outside of the capital city.  Despite this low baseline, the security situation and other economic factors have contributed to plunging the country even further into a catastrophe.  A bar of soap that cost me 5 South Sudanese Pounds in 2013 now costs 200 pounds and food is scarce in the once-thriving local market in Yei.

Earlier this summer, I struggled to listen to my colleague describe how one of our neighbors in Yei slowly lost weight – He and his young children are slowly starving as they struggle to make ends meet.

Crisis of leadership: Despite the signing of a peace deal and international efforts to forge a Government of National Unity, South Sudan’s leaders have continued to perpetuate conflict as their citizens suffer. Furthermore, South Sudan’s leaders are reportedly stealing billions of dollars from state coffers and directing customs officials to prevent fleeing populations from leaving the country. It’s hard to even know the severity of the crisis because the government frequently blocks humanitarian actors from accessing crisis areas, preventing them from gathering information and providing much-needed assistance.

U.S. policy makers and other global leaders are shocked at the behavior of South Sudanese leaders and often express their disdain and condemnation in hearings and official statements. However, the crisis in South Sudan isn’t simply a matter of a few bad apples or “greedy leaders” misbehaving but a complex conflict with a complex history, taking place in a chaotic environment. The only thing that is obvious is that there is no simple solution to bringing about a lasting peace.

I find it hard to remain optimistic considering the deeps wounds inflicted by the recent and ongoing violence, a heart breaking admission given the hope that I witnessed after independence in 2011.

However, there remain a few good stories.  The Church of the Brethren has long partnered with churches in South Sudan who represent important community leaders and peacemakers at local and national levels. Churches have even stepped up to provide services, protection and to help South Sudanese families in need.  I recently saw a Facebook post from a friend that noted that over 50,000 people were being harbored in churches in Yei.  Overall, as one of my colleagues tells me, “the church has continued to be a prophetic voice in the midst of this conflict, speaking out against the atrocities and abuse of power… at great personal danger too.”

Engaging Christian leaders and other members of civil society will be key as South Sudan embarks on the difficult work of ending the conflict and repairing the wounds of war.


There’s a lot more to know about the recent events in South Sudan.  For more information, there are a number of sources for better understanding the context and possible international responses:

Deeper Dives:



Mutuality in mission

Debbie Eisenbise leading a workshop at the  2016 New Church Planting Conference.  Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Debbie Eisenbise leading a workshop at the
2016 New Church Planting Conference.
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

By Debbie Eisenbise, director of Intergenerational Ministries

Someone recently asked me what I believe it means to be Brethren. Thinking back, I realized that it was a simple phrase that convinced me to join the church. I didn’t grow up in the Church of the Brethren. I grew up going to church, studied religion in college, and then became acquainted with the denomination through Brethren Volunteer Service. There, I first heard the phrase, “mutuality in mission.”

Mission philosophies come and go, and we may not talk about our engagement with the world this way anymore. However, what struck me at the time (and still does) was not the words themselves but how they are embodied in our church. We are people who put faith into action, and do so with others. We look for ways to work with others, to engage in community efforts, and to be of service where needs have been identified by local groups. We listen to others. We make decisions together.

Mutuality in mission requires us to respond to the needs of people in the church and in the world, and to work alongside others for the good of all. It is faith in action. Before I met the Brethren, I thought faith was a private thing, a way of believing that helped each person maintain a particular perspective on life. Now I know that, while faith is personal, it is not private, and the gifts of faith that each of us possess are to be used for the common good.

Before I came into the Church of the Brethren, I had never participated in feetwashing. Although I was familiar with the Bible, I’m not sure that scripture (John 13) made much of an impact on me. In the Church of the Brethren, I was surprised to find that this scripture was not only frequently cited but also enacted. It wasn’t just a story about Jesus and his disciples at that last supper. These were also instructions for us today. Jesus tells us: “I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). As Brethren, we take this quite literally, and not just in worship. Mutuality in mission means that we serve others, and, acknowledging our own vulnerability, allow others to serve us in return. Indeed, faith in action is relational. We give and receive. Together we share God’s love and build community.

I saw this happening at various denominational conferences I attended in May. At the New Church Planting Conference, Brethren brothers and sisters of various races and cultures came together to pray for each other’s ministries. At the Church of the Brethren Spiritual Directors’ retreat, ideas were shared about how to make spiritual direction more available to pastors to strengthen and encourage them in ministry. At the National Young Adult Conference, participants took time one afternoon to connect across generations with older adults at Timbercrest Senior Living Community.

Congregations across the country are joining the Open Roof Fellowship through intentionally ministering to and with persons of all physical, mental, and developmental abilities. Others are actively engaged in creating safe spaces for all people, particularly children and vulnerable adults, to worship, learn, fellowship, and serve together. At our conferences, in workcamps, through Brethren Volunteer Service, and in our congregations, we come together to put our faith into action, to engage in mutuality in mission. Thank you for all you do to respond to this call through prayers, gifts, worship, and service.

Learn more about the Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren at or support them today at .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

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


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.





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.



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

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

By Deanna Beckner, assistant workcamp coordinator

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 or support it today at .

(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


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 or support it today at .

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