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.

Loving our Syrian Neighbors

Loving your neighbor is a lot easier to do when you actually know your neighbor. We’re more likely to love those who are close to us and who we have regular contact with, but our global neighbors are in need of our love and compassion, too. While browsing the happenings of today, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the tragedies in Aleppo, Syria. Innocent Syrians are being injured and killed, chlorine gas attacks are swamping the city, and hospitals are being targeted. I was moved after hearing appalling stories, as told by a surgeon in the midst of all the destruction.

These awful accounts of children struggling for their lives, wanting an end to the violence, plagued my mind. Violence shows no mercy. Violence isn’t limited to “over there.” Jesus’ love knows no boundaries. His love shines to all with no limits. As Brethren, we are quite familiar with the actions of peace. The Brethren Resolution of 1991, recount “during the early 1940s, in the midst of wartime hysteria, Brethren pioneered in the resettlement of Americans of Japanese ancestry who were interned in U.S. evacuation camps during World War II[28]“ Throughout history Brethren have proved their radical actions of peacemaking.
Some fear that ISIS will infiltrate through the refugee program so our borders should remain closed to refugees. Yet our Brethren values, founded in Christ’s teachings, compel us to help those in need and welcome them with open arms.The current vetting process for a refugee isn’t easy. This lengthy process can take years and many refugees are declined throughout the process. The United State is accepting a very small number of refugees compared to some other countries. More refugees were taken in by Germany in 2015 than were taken in the US in 10 years. Peacemaking isn’t always an easy task. One of the Brethren Peace statements says, “Jesus’ way of life leaves no doubt that peacemaking is rigorous and costly.” We, as followers of Christ, we must show love to all, unconditionally. I’m proud to say that I have witnessed churches trying to do just that. Jesus calls us out to radically love one another. Psalm 82:4 says, “Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Doesn’t that describe plight of the Syrian refugees? May we show radical love to everyone, no matter where they may stand in the world. Our love should have no limits based on geography. Our love should have no limits based on gender, age, social class, or anything in between.

Recent actions by our government don’t live up to this ideal, however. Thirty governors have asked that Syrian resettlement in the United States be stopped. There are bills being proposed that would limit the amount of refugees that could come to the US annually, some blocking Syrians and Nigerians specifically. As followers of Christ, we need to speak out in support of the most vulnerable. The fight for shelter, food, and even water is a common struggle under the rubble of areas knocked down by the hatred of others. Refugees aren’t seeking shelter for a better life, they are just searching for life. May we give them the hospitality so they may not only survive, but thrive. Their struggling has gone on for too long. It seems that our compassion has been limited to geography.

As followers of Christ, we need to be aware of the harsh realities facing many Syrians and others struggling in the midst of violence. As these attacks continue in Syria, and elsewhere, we offer prayers and hope for a swift and lasting resolution to these conflicts. September 21st, the International Day of Peace, we will come together in prayer for those in Syria and other areas of conflict. Will you join us to pray and work beyond these barriers?

Learn more at- http://www.refugeesarewelcome.org/
Tell congress and your governor- http://support.brethren.org/site/MessageViewer?em_id=35018.0
“Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” –Psalm 82:4

Peace to all,

Emerson Goering

Peacebuilding and Policy Associate

Office of Public Witness

Nigeria Crisis Update

Food loaded for delivery

Food loaded for delivery

FOOD DISTRIBUTION  A team of four staff of the EYN Disaster Relief Ministry took food supplies to the Futu District. The team was led by the EYN Director Relief, Rev. Yuguda Z. Mdurwa. Other staff were Acting Coordinator, Rev. Joshua B. Mainu, Mr. Aniya Simon, Accountant and the Driver, Mr. John Haha.  The truck could not reach the initially planned center for distribution because of a stream on the way to the village; but food items were collected by representatives of the Local Churches. District Officials were also present  as the Local Church representatives collected the items for their congregations.

Blocks ready to build the wall at CSS

Blocks ready to build the wall at CSS

WALL FOR COMPREHENSIVE SECONDARY SCHOOL  Blocks are being made to continue the wall around the EYN Secondary School. The wall will aid in security for the over 250 students.

 

 

 

Growing Corn from Seeds Distribution

Growing Corn from Seeds Distribution

SEEDS & FERTILIZER  In June,  corn (maize) seeds and fertilizer were given to over 2000 families. The corn is growing and now bean seeds have been purchased and are being distributed to 3000 families. The beans are planted in August and grow under the corn. We pray for a bountiful harvest.

 

 

August Fellowship Group from the USA visits Favored Sister’s School – While spending two weeks walking along side our brothers and sisters in Nigeria, the latest fellowship group visited one of our sponsored schools. This school is the full time home to 120 orphans.

Favored sisters Aug visit

Singing and praising God with the children

Favored sisters Aug visit2

Playing games

Favored sisters Aug visit3

Coloring and engaging with the children

A New “Peace” to the Puzzle

 

Hello! My name is Emmy Goering and I will be taking the place of Jesse Winter as the Peacebuilding and Policy Associate at the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness. I graduated high school in May and I am taking this year to volunteer for the Brethren Volunteer Service. Growing up in the Church of the Brethren, the importance of peace and social justice was always stressed.  Through the church, my passion for peace and social justice grew and continues to bloom.

While serving as the Peacebuilding and Policy Associate, I will be spreading awareness and advocating for those who need it. I’m looking forward to advocating for social justice while upholding Brethren values on Capitol Hill.

During my time in BVS, I hope to learn new ways to take action for those in need and teach peace through the ways of Jesus.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.  –Proverbs 31:8-9

Blessings to all,

Emerson Goering

 

Following the path

Tyler leading chapel at the General Offices. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Tyler leading chapel at the General Offices.
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

By Tyler Roebuck, 2016 Ministry Summer Service intern

This summer, I worked at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., as a Ministry Summer Service intern with the communications and Messenger staff. A writer by trade and Brethren by choice, I found it to be a fulfilling internship in many measures.

I began the summer not knowing how to cook or budget, or how to occupy my free time. Through dedication and practice, I resolved these things and have gained much confidence in myself. I even started to understand flavor pairings with foods and what works well together. I know in restaurants what works, but when doing it for myself on a budget, I had to be creative.

Independence has never been my strongest trait, and I was genuinely worried at the beginning of the summer about how I would function on my own in an unfamiliar city. Not having a car was a major concern. I’m from rural northern Indiana, where it is absolutely necessary to have a reliable car. When everything, from the grocery store to the bowling alley, is at least a 20- minute drive away, you become quite accustomed to driving everywhere. This is why I had initial anxieties about living without my car. I had a bicycle, which helped with these anxieties. Through the summer, I did quite well, and even became more confident in my abilities and in pursuing my goals free from the expectations of others. Not only did I do well on my own, I enjoyed it.

My work this summer pointed me in a good direction professionally. Being part of the news team at Annual Conference showed me that not only am I capable of working with high-pressure deadlines regularly, but I love it. I had the thrill of working during Conference, writing a story every night, and meeting and interviewing people. It was very vocationally fulfilling.

Perhaps the most valuable growth in me this summer was in self confidence. I put on a good face when necessary, but often I am cripplingly shy and full of self doubt. Or at least I was before this summer. Having to function on my own and discovering that I excel at it was a tremendous boost for my self confidence, and successfully completing quality work under pressure assured me that I am following the path I am intended to.

Tyler Roebuck was one of 10 young adults who served across the denomination this summer through Ministry Summer Service. Learn more about this ministry of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/mss or support it today at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Youth Peace Travel Team 2016 – Debriefing and Harrisburg workcamp

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As the summer wraps up, we had a team debriefing session before our Junior High workcamp in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. For three of us, Harrisburg was our first workcamp! It was quite an experience to simultaneously step into a directing role as a team. We had the opportunity to serve with several organizations around Harrisburg for three days before we were off to our final camp! What a joyful time.

Hello friends!

Debriefing went very well. It is so difficult to wrap up all the amazing experiences and lessons we have learned this summer in just a few conversations. But the laughs, backyard swims, and just a few days off were really nice and refreshing.

The work camp theme this year was “blazing with holiness.” The worships, devotions, and just the conversations and ideas the team had really seemed to flow well. I personally had not heard the metaphor of fire in worship in quite a while. The rhetoric I seemed to associate with that metaphor was fairly negative, but this week has turned it right upside on its head. And what a place to do it! Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren was undeniably ablaze with service. It seemed like their doors never closed, with people always in and out for all different needs. The workcampers definitely recognized it too. We discussed the kindling of their own faith. It really touched my heart how blessed we are as a team to be part of these faith journeys at such a pivotal point of growth.

It was also awesome to be in a city again! I remember in Iowa at some point saying “I need to stop somewhere and use the bathroom” and the person driving us replied, “Okay, you’ll have to wait about fifteen minutes until we get somewhere.” I grew up in a city and currently live in a different city. There is nothing quite like the hustle, bustle, and immediate diversity of cities like Harrisburg or Cincinnati. My favorite part of the week was going to an authentic taqueria. I loved supporting a family business while being reminded of my childhood. Love was abundant in this city and in all the service done here. Urban ministry is groovy! Not to mention the tambourines!!

Peace out, Kiana

Yo! We have finished another amazing week, but this time with a twist. Our experience with a junior high work camp was all-around awesome. Since the work camp started halfway through the week, we got to start our week with a few relaxing days. Once work camp started, we moved over to Harrisburg First, and began co-directing with Marie.

Working with junior high at a workcamp is a similar and yet different thing than working with them at a camp. These young leaders touched my heart through their abilities to spread joy, lift each other up, work hard, and serve selflessly. God was at work in so many ways as we moved furniture for Brethren Housing Association and worked in green spaces and city gardens. He was at work in those of us who served at local soup kitchens and resource centers, like Downtown Daily Bread and Bethesda’s Women’s Shelter. I saw Him at work when the campers learned about interpersonal communication by making coke floats-with blindfolds on. His spirit flowed in our worship with the Harrisburg First praise band, and His love connected us with the local youth group as well.

This week definitely was an amazing first work camp experience, and God’s hands and feet were all over Harrisburg last week.

Phoebe

This past week in Harrisburg was a time to gain a greater connection to the city that I had previously only known as my state’s capital. Shortly after our arrival, it became apparent that Harrisburg First Church is an exceedingly alive congregation with a perpetually active ministry. Both the tradition and the praise services, led this Sunday by the youth, were filled with energy and joy as each person there was greeted by a smile and great music! However, this week we got to really see what it means for church not just to be for Sundays. People visit the church building all week long to attend parenting classes, nonviolent conflict resolution workshops, Bible studies, fresh food distributions, and so much more.

The work project where I spent the majority of my time was building raised vegetable beds to be used by Brethren Community Ministries. We got to watch as a lot went from empty to a fully planted garden in just a couple of days and as the work camp youth stepped out of their comfort zones and began to master power tools.

It was a blessing for me to see what an urban Church of the Brethren can be and do. “Blazing with Holiness” was a perfectly fitting workcamp theme; at many points during the week, the church felt on fire! Coming from a more rural district, this week stirred me to explore many more creative and varied ways to be the Church in all of my communities.
What an inspiring week in my home state, Pennsylvania!
The workcamp in Harrisburg was my 7th workcamp, and it was really awesome to be in a leadership role for the first time! Workcamps have always been one of the highlights of my summer and have been such a large part of my faith journey. This summer was no different.

At first, the workcamp wasn’t one of the spots along the team’s travel that I was looking forward to the most because it was in such close proximity to my home However, I learned so much about myself and from the youth that the week became one of my summer highlights.

I would typically identify as a “country girl” who was raised in Lancaster County. However, going on a tour the first night of the workcamp showed me the value and pure awesomeness of growing up in a city. 1) THERE ARE SO MANY FOOD PLACES YOU CAN WALK TO, including a really awesome ice cream shop this week. 2) I’d probably know how to parallel park. 3) Urban ministry is awesome. I really enjoyed worship and Harrisburg First. The list goes on and on. Sometime in my life, I want to experience living in a city.

The workcampers that week were also truly amazing. I generally have difficulty opening up to people. However, this past week a few youth just found ways to pick on me in a loving way that meant they were comfortable with me. Also, seeing how much these youth could get done was awesome.

They were hard workers and were so efficient!

Peace, Love, and PA
Jenna

Youth Peace Travel Team 2016 – Camp Brethren Heights

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Hello dear friends! We just finished up our 8th week of the summer at Camp Brethren Heights with Beaver Camp! What a different change of pace to work with 9-11 year olds in such a fun atmosphere. This week the team practiced what it preached by stepping out of our comfort zones in differing ways. “Beaver one, beaver all, let’s all hear our beaver call!”

Michigan was full of fun, nature, and a sense of family (both literally and figuratively), which we were welcomed into immediately. I admired so dearly the leadership present at camp; from the Dean to the CIT’s, from the counselors to the worship and Bible study leaders, everyone there was amazing in their ability to demonstrate the family of God.

A unique thing about Brethren Heights was that it was our first experience where Bible time was sort of built off of, or continued from, our content. The message of peace was strongly desired and emphasized at Brethren Heights, a camp who hadn’t experienced the Peace Team in a long time. I was humbled to hear the conviction and passion of the leaders as they led in a continued learning experience of peace, communication, and justice. I learned so much about teaching and using my resources from the way these leaders used theirs.

Our team was somewhat nervous going into a week of elementary campers, as they were younger than our typical crowd. But we were able to see just how much these kids retained, even in the act of playing foursquare and observing how the language of that activity changed throughout the week. We were not disappointed in the slightest, and we were able to bond and connect with these campers and this staff so wonderfully.

Michigan was great, and I can’t wait to head back for our final week!

See ya’ soon,
Phoebe

Our past week was spent singing and dancing at the endless hills of Brethren heights! This was the team’s first state that was new to all of us; it didn’t disappoint. This week was full of love and laughter for all involved. And also many naps. As the end of our summer draws near, I felt fatigued and a little sick. I deeply appreciated the gracious staff that let me rest.

Sometimes, even when you feel like you aren’t at your best is when the Holy Spirit decides you are needed the most. I struggle with feeling confident in my ability to lead younger kids. I know when I was that age most things went in one ear and out the other. My mind at that point in my development was probably focused on what the clouds looked like outside or what my favorite Jonas brother was doing at the time. I also had forgotten just how it sounded to hear children communicate with others their age – far from peaceful or patient! However, it was an amazing experience to see the campers grow through the week in the smallest lessons they took from our sessions. Foursquare games got a lot friendlier when we brought up speaking to each other in love! So simple, yet a teaching most of us forget day-to-day. It is always so moving to see kids develop in ways you never expected them too. I am thankful for the patience and peace they ended up teaching me.

Another favorite part of this camp for me was to see the family values held by leadership. Being on the road and so far from home does instill a sense of homesickness. Instead of saying “homesickness,” we referenced the word “potato.” Yet just to see a mom, who was also the camp’s dean, hug her son every morning at breakfast warmed my heart. This was a week I felt the fruits of the Spirit in abundance. Thank you, Brethren Heights.

Peace,
Kiana

We have been blessed each week of this summer to be welcomed into new families and communities with open arms, and this week was no different. Listening to stories of Brethren Heights from generations past, particularly how this camp and the Church of the Brethren shaped the lives of the many volunteers who now return to work with current campers, was inspiring.

If there were two ideas we hoped to leave with the campers this week, it would have been that words are powerful and stepping out of your comfort zone is necessary. We noticed early in the week that in times of excitement, such as a foursquare match or the cabin cleaning competition, emotions often ran high and words spoken unintentionally often hurt. It was awesome to watch throughout the week as with the prompting of counselors and staff many campers began to pay attention to the way they were expressing themselves. Campers were also encouraged to get out of their comfort zones and try new things. Many tried praying in public or leading a song. Many campers realized that trying new things makes camp an even better time and that what is comfortable for one person isn’t always what is “just.”

In the words of a song adapted by Dan West:
“Beyond the hills of Michigan our unseen camper friends, now walk beside us all the way in life that never ends.”

We will remember our camper friends at Brethren Heights as well all daily seek to learn how to speak to each other in love and do justice beyond our comfort zone.

— Peace, Sara

Working with these young people was exhausting, and yet inspiring.

One moving moment was at the beginning of the week when we played “One fish, two fish.” The campers had to work together to take a water bottle from between the caller’s legs and get it back to the starting line without the caller seeing it. It took some strategizing, cooperation, communication, and teamwork, but the campers successfully completed the task after a few trials and errors.

Another awesome thing was when campers were able to share back with us important lessons that we had been teaching. Also, this camp was really big on memory verses and it was neat to see the campers retain Matthew 5:9 the best.
I’m always amazed by random conversations that are just happen, whether they happen in a car with a respected elder or around a fire with campers and counselors. This summer has been full of deep and meaningful conversations.

I’m so excited to return to Brethren Heights with their adventure senior high camp at the end of our summer!

Peace, Love, and Beavers,
Jenna

Report On Crisis in Puerto Rico

It may be surprising to some Church of the Brethren members that Puerto Rico, an Island and United Sates’ territory, is a complete church district. The island became a district in 2014, separating from the Atlantic Southeast District. The current District Executive is Jose Calleja Otero. Paul Parker, a member of the Washington City Church of the Brethren, has family in Puerto Rico and visits the country often. In the following paragraphs, he provides information to help us better understand the situation of our Puerto Rican Brethren:

Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States since 1898. It is an unincorporated territory; its people are U.S. citizens. Colonization has distorted the economic and political life of the country.

Politically: The “status question” has distorted politics. The three main parties are all defined by their position on status for the island: statehood, continuation of the Commonwealth, or independence. The status question of the island has been used by the political parties to mobilize voters and, effectively, to mask the parties’ failures to address the underlying economic problems of the island. Government has been plagued by cronyism, incompetence and corruption.

The commonwealth government was created in 1952, by act of U.S. Congress granting limited local control. Some believed it granted “limited sovereignty” to the island. However, ultimate authority and sovereignty always rested with the U.S. Congress. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling this spring affirmed that ultimate sovereignty abides with the Congress.

Economically: Agriculture has been greatly diminished. The sugar, coffee and tobacco industries have almost disappeared. The island imports about 75% of its food, at significant cost and outflow of wealth. All goods must be imported in expensive, U.S. flag vessels, raising the cost of living. Local industry and commerce have suffered from competition with domestic U.S. producers.

The economy of the island was supported by a Federal law that allowed companies that invested in the island to retain profits tax free, resulting in industrial investment. This law lapsed in 1998, and manufacturing began to close. After the Cold War ended, U.S. military bases closed. Tourism remains the mainstay of the economy. Many people are working hard to preserve the distinctive natural environment and cultural heritage of the island. However, with the 2008 recession, tourism, as well as other economic activity, suffered a major decline. Migration off the island, particularly of people of working ages and their children, soared due to lack of economic opportunity. Population sank from about 4.4 million to 3.4 million, and continues declining. For example, the number of doctors on the island has dropped from about 14,000 to 9,000. This reduced the tax base and left an aging population in need of greater social services. Sixty percent of the island’s children and forty percent of the total population live in poverty. Infrastructure is crumbling.

Faced with the “perfect storm” of dire economics, the Commonwealth, all of its independent agencies, and many institutions and businesses faced massive deficits and bankruptcies. Rather than raise taxes or cut services, political leaders of both of the major ruling parties resorted to deficit funding to pay operating expenses with debt. By 2015, the Commonwealth and its agencies had accumulated $68 billion in debt. Given the declining economy, the debt had become unpayable. The Commonwealth and its agencies were facing default in 2016. While some of this public debt is still held by local pension funds and retirees, a large amount has been bought up by speculators at great discount.

The Commonwealth was due to default on all debt payments on July 1, 2016. This would have allowed the speculators to sue in Federal court. The island faced possible court orders to pay the debt in preference to pension funds and social services. This would have created a massive social crisis.

The U.S. Congress acted in June to pass the “PROMESA” Act in order to prevent a social crisis. The Act was strongly supported by Jubilee, a multi-church organization devoted to debt relief for poor countries. The Church of the Brethren is a member of the coalition, and our Office of Public Witness, and its Latin American committee members, also independently supported the Act.

While a compromise between many parties, the Act has several main provisions: the Act bars any lawsuits by creditors for up to 20 months; it creates a Financial Control Board (called the “Junta” in Puerto Rico); it authorizes the Board to investigate and oversee the finances of the island; and authorizes the Board to negotiate debt reduction with the creditors. It aims to create breathing room to deal with the problem, to reestablish the credibility of the government’s financial management, and to renegotiate the debt in a manner that recognizes the social and economic needs of the populace.

While the “Junta” is resented by many, there seems to be a loss of faith in local officials and a reluctant acceptance of the necessity of the Board if it gives priority to the wellbeing of the populace over the creditors.

What are we to do as Christians and a church? First we must pray, and lobby Congress, that the Board acts to preserve the social wellbeing of the people of Puerto Rico. This is, however, only the immediate need.

A recent certified audit of the Commonwealth finances by the accounting firm of KPMA clearly stated that the island’s governmental and financial structure is simply unsustainable. Beyond debt payment, there is not enough revenue to maintain services, rebuild infrastructure, refund depleted pensions and promote economic development.

Many on the island feel that the current crisis has forcefully demonstrated the need to resolve, once and for all, the status question. There is a growing consensus that the Commonwealth, as a colonial structure, is not working. As one sign read in a recent demonstration, “The problem is not the Junta, it’s the colony.” Resolution, many believe, will require statehood or independence, both of which will require action by the US government.

Again, what are we to do as Christian’s and a church? To improve economic conditions, we must pray for and lobby Congress for the following: an end to the law requiring imports in U.S. shipping; payments for Medicare/Medicaid that equal those in the states; greater aid to education; laws to promote outside investment in the island; oversight of the Financial Control Board. Ultimately, if the island seeks statehood or Independence, we must support that decision and lobby Congress to grant statehood, or financial aid to ease a transition to independence.

In the meanwhile, come on down! The island and its people are as lovely as ever.

In Christ’s Peace,
Paul Parker and Stephanie Robinson

Stephanie works with the Office of Public Witness covering Latin America and is from the Oak Grove Church of the Brethren. Paul is part of the Washington City Church of the Brethren who has family in Puerto Rico and travels there extensively.

Youth Peace Travel Team – Camp Pine Lake

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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