Youth Peace Travel Team 2015 – ECHO Workcamp

group  hand in beansbuilding  open storeturtle planting beach

Hello from Florida again friends! We spent the last week as directors for the workcamp down here in Fort Myers at ECHO Global Farm! We got to not only help lead devotions for the youth, but also got the chance to work alongside them. It was an excellent experience for all of us, and here are some of our thoughts from the week.

I was already excited to see ECHO again, as I went there as a workcamper back in 2009. Having that experience gave me some know-how, but it didn’t help me “know how” to be a director – that was the biggest difference! But I still had a great experience at both the farms and with my campers. These campers were an awesome, hard working, energetic and song-loving group. Sing-alongs were a must during the week. But it wasn’t all play. The work was dirty and tiring, and we drank so much water. We were all inspired to live more mindfully of the earth and the resources we use. I daydreamed about having my own garden of multi-use plants and produce. My parents say that I came home daydreaming about a garden back in 2009 too! ECHO must have a great impact on people as well as their staff. Proving just how dedicated to their spiritual calling, two elders of ECHO prayed for me for something I’ve been struggling with. I was definitely happy to be back. The beautiful gardens, the wonderful staff, and the great campers made it an unforgettable experience – one that was definitely worth the fire ant bites!  – Brean

Last week the Peace Team played the role of the director, which was new for everyone. I really enjoyed ECHO for many reasons. I love the philosophy they have on global farming and helping people around the world learn how to grow their own food. Food insecurity is something that interests me a lot so ECHO was a perfect opportunity to learn about and participate in helping to alleviate that problem. Echo has sections of the farm that replicate different regions of the world including: rainforest, mountain, wetlands, semi-arid, urban farming, community garden, and more. I worked in semi-arid by weeding and planting okra. I also worked in the community garden by hauling and mixing sand and soil to raise the beds in the garden. I haven’t ever done farm work so ECHO was very new and exciting. On our free day we got to go to Barefoot Beach. It was gorgeous! We got to swim and dolphins swam by us about 200 meters away! We also found crabs, sand dollars and sea stars; I’ve never seen that much wildlife in the day at the beach. It was wonderful! – Annika

This past week at ECHO was a wonderful time! We played the role of director and worked alongside one of the workcamp coordinators (shout out to Hannah). We had a great group of campers and advisors that we got to lead through devotions and just hang out with. During the day we would all head over to ECHO Global Farms where they would split us up into different work groups that would go with interns at the farm to work for the day. And when I say work, I mean WORK! It was tough work of all kinds, from weeding and planting to building shelters to mulching and everything in between! And on top of that it was in the Florida heat! But our campers persevered and did an excellent job! Everyone was always tired when we broke for lunch and at the end of the day, but then we could rest knowing that we had done great work for an amazing cause. The staff at ECHO were all super great and helpful, and incredibly excited to have our help for the week! One of my highlights was getting to work with a big group of campers to replace one of the shade coverings at the nursery. We spent all our workday up on ladders or running tools around to take boards down and put new ones back up! The coolest part was that it couldn’t be done as a one-person job; we needed everyone and all had to work together to get the job done! Another highlight was how welcoming the Saving Grace Church of the Brethren in Fort Myers was to our camp. They let us use their building, and also had a cookout meal and concert for us one evening! ECHO was a great experience and an excellent week! -Kerrick

We all greatly enjoyed the week at ECHO, and if you ever get the chance to go down to Fort Myers and volunteer there, we definitely recommend it! (Although maybe not in July) J Thanks to everyone who helped make this workcamp happen and thank you to all who took time to read our blog post here! Blessings to you all!

A Minister’s Wife tells her story

Conference at Tampa

Conference in Tampa

Salamatu’s Story (written by Janet Crago)

It was a Sunday morning that won’t ever be forgotten. During worship services at Salamatu’s large EYN (Ekklisiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria which means Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) church, Boko Haram terrorists invaded the church building and started shooting people!  There was a tremendous rush by everyone to get out and away.   In the haste to leave, no one knows for sure how many died, how many were injured, and how many escaped.  Months later, relatives are still just connecting with other family members.

Salamatu fled with only her Bible and a copy of the SS&S (Sacred Songs and Solos).  Her group of escapees tried to go south to Uba, but that road was blocked.  They then headed through the bush to another nearby village, a distance of 8 miles.  They had no food or water, but had to push through if they wanted to live.  Eventually, they had to cross a river, and  they took turns crossing in a canoe.  The charge was $100 Naira ($.50), but luckily some people had a bit of money.  They all shared resources and were able to cross.  Salamatu sprained her ankle scrambling up from the river so she had to walk on a painful ankle the rest of the way..

This exhausted group arrived in the nearby village early the next morning.  This village has several large EYN churches and those churches were opened for people to sleep in.  Also, some people opened their homes for the refugees.  Many women cooked, so their immediate hunger needs were met.  However, This village was only a temporary refuge.  Someone located a pickup truck. That night, after about only 20 hours in the village, 40 people stood in the back of the pickup truck for their ride to Yola.  It was a very long, exhausting night riding 120 miles, standing in an overloaded pickup.  They were very frightened.  Prudent people don’t travel on the roads at night in Nigeria, let alone with Boko Haram lurking around.

When they arrived in Yola, Salamatu’s 12 year old son burst into tears and said he would never return to their village.  In Yola today, there are 6 EYN churches and several refugee camps.  The refugees dispersed to friends, family, or to the refugee camps.  Salamatu and family were taken in by a “brother in Christ”.  He hosted them for 1 month.

Then, Salamatu’s brother-in-law loaned them a small house in a suburb of Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria located just southwest of the center of the country.  They stayed in the house for 7 months.  At that time they could finally return to their village, only to find everything in their house burned, destroyed, or carted off.  Even their mattresses were missing!  Salamatu and her husband had each left a vehicle behind – they were gone.  One assistant pastor had a vehicle – it was gone.  The church had a bus – it was gone.  Both assistant pastors’ houses were burned.  The church was destroyed.  Life in their village is quite difficult now.  They must walk everywhere.  There is no electricity.

Salamatu had left behind a small shop in which she sold women’s wear, children’s wear, Bibles, and Song books.  The shop was destroyed along with all the goods in it.  Her plan was to use the profit from the shop to pay for school fees for her children.  She had saved money for some time to accumulate enough funds to get the shop started.  Now she has to start all over again, but has no start-up money.  They consider themselves very fortunate to have escaped.  Their four children are all back in school.  But Salamatu worries that they won’t be able keep them there because of her inability to pay the school fees.  Their village still isn’t really safe from Boko Haram.  So, Why did they go back?  To quote Salamatu, “If the shepherd runs away, who will take care of the sheep?”  After all, her husband Joel is an EYN pastor.

Today the Boko Haram prowl the bush around their village.  Those living there exist in a constant state of tension – to stay or to flee.  Would we, faced with this ongoing reality, find the faith to stay and be there to minister to those who return helping to restore some sense of normalcy to their lives?  Let this be a challenge to us all. We pray that Christ’s peace and presence will abide with them all.

On the bus as part of the EYN Women's Choir Tour

On the bus as part of the EYN Women’s Choir Tour

Devotions (EYN Daily Link) July 26 – August 1, 2015

DAILY LINK WITH GOD 2015EYN Devotions graphic
A Daily Devotional Guide from the
EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)

EYN leaders in Nigeria believe prayer is one of the most important ways to support the Nigerian people and the Church.  These daily devotions were written by EYN members and published by the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. Reading them daily is a powerful way we can be in solidarity and connect with our brothers and sisters caught in this crisis.  EYN’s daily devotional for 2015 will be posted a week at a time on this blog, appearing mid-week for the following week. More information about the crisis can be found at www.nigeriacrisis.org.

Click on this link for Devotions July 26 – August 1, 2015

Devotions (EYN Daily Link) July 19 – 25, 2015

DAILY LINK WITH GOD 2015EYN Devotions graphic
A Daily Devotional Guide from the
EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)

EYN leaders in Nigeria believe prayer is one of the most important ways to support the Nigerian people and the Church.  These daily devotions were written by EYN members and published by the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. Reading them daily is a powerful way we can be in solidarity and connect with our brothers and sisters caught in this crisis.  EYN’s daily devotional for 2015 will be posted a week at a time on this blog, appearing mid-week for the following week. More information about the crisis can be found at www.nigeriacrisis.org.

Click on this link for Devotions July 19-25

Nigeria Choir followup

Choirby Carl Hill

Thanks to you the Nigeria Crisis Response is moving forward

What your Contributions are Doing for Our Nigerian Families

food distribSo far, because of the generosity of Churches like yours, more than 20,000 displaced persons have received emergency food and basic materials from the EYN Disaster Team.

 

Three large tracts of land have been purchased by Church of the Brethren Nigeria (EYN) chinkafor the building of Care Centers for displaced people. At these Care Centers people are removed from the most dangerous areas of NE Nigeria. The large tracts of land will provide space where farming can begin and people will be able to resume “normal” life again.

Church of the Brethren is not only supporting EYN in our Crisis Response but also four NGOs (Non-Governmental Agencies). One of them is providing livelihoods for people who have lost everything.

livelihoodThe leaders of the NGOs are proving to be people who really care. Sewing machines, bean cake making supplies and grinding machines are giving desperate people hope by setting them up with a business of their own.

 

Another important area as part of the recovery program is trauma and reconciliation work. Together with Mennonite Central Committee we are training trainers for these restorative workshops. After the training, these Nigerians will be able to minister to those most circle of hands (3)affected by trauma associated with the terrible violence perpetrated by the Boko Haram. This area of the recovery is critical for Nigeria to move forward peacefully.

Education is another area that needs our help in order to meet the needs of the many kidsin schoolchildren who have been adversely affected by the violence in the Northeast. Another of our NGOs is concentrating on getting children back into school. Most of the schools in the Northeast have been closed down for over a year (some for two years).

Because you care, young students are able to enroll in existing schools. We are currently supporting one elementary school in Jos (200 students) and one in Bui (300 students).

dr rebeccaOur other NGOs are also doing great things for the people of Nigeria. Dr. Rebecca Dali, wife of EYN president, Samuel Dali, heads up an NGO that acts as a first responder to people in need. Not only has she distributed food and supplies to many of her people she is keeping detailed records of those that have been displaced and  those that have been killed as a result of the violence. Our fourth NGO has built a camp near the capitol city of Abuja (out of harm’s way) that is populated by both Christians and Muslims. This unique experiment is seen as a model for reconciliation between the faith groups. Markus Gamache, recently toured the western states speaking about the crisis and how his NGO has responded thanks to the people of the United States.

Lastly, our efforts have assisted EYN in their attempts to continue operations by supporting their Majalisa (Annual Conference) and other conferences that are normally held on an annual basis.

Devotions (EYN Daily Link) July 12 – 18, 2015

DAILY LINK WITH GOD 2015EYN Devotions graphic
A Daily Devotional Guide from the
EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)

EYN leaders in Nigeria believe prayer is one of the most important ways to support the Nigerian people and the Church.  These daily devotions were written by EYN members and published by the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. Reading them daily is a powerful way we can be in solidarity and connect with our brothers and sisters caught in this crisis.  EYN’s daily devotional for 2015 will be posted a week at a time on this blog, appearing mid-week for the following week. More information about the crisis can be found at www.nigeriacrisis.org.

Click on this link for EYN Devotions July 12 – 18

Youth Peace Travel Team 2015 – Camp Ithiel

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Hello friends! We just finished up a very energy filled and exciting week at beautiful Camp Ithiel! We had 49 junior high youth there with us for the wonderful journey that is church camp! Camp Ithiel gave us the opportunity to lead a session everyday with the youth, (Two sessions actually, because we could only do half the group at one time), which was super awesome! We also got to hang out and join in on the rest of the activities throughout the week!

At the beginning of the camp week, I was adjusting to both the hot weather and the number of junior highers attending – 49 in total! It was such a diverse group, and I loved it! During Vespers, the kids turned singing songs into dancing for Jesus, and the energy was almost overwhelming. We also enjoyed our sessions with the campers, especially since it was the first time we had a chance to do all five of our topics. As the week went on, the campers offered more and more insightful comments, so I really hope that they continue to be passionate about peace. Outside of sessions, the campers were so much fun to play with: nine-square-in-the-air, gaga ball, and then even a crazy game of clothes pin tag! I loved the camp and their staff, and I’m enjoying my time in Florida.

-Brean

I had a fantastic week at camp Ithiel! It is such a unique camp because it is located right in the middle of an Orlando suburb, while most camps that we have visited are out in the middle of nowhere.

This week 49 junior high campers came to camp!  There haven’t been that many campers at Ithiel in years. Each camper was so unique and full of energy. The campers came from very diverse backgrounds and it was such a joy to get to know them.

On Thursday, I was sorting the recycling and one of the campers came to help me. I said, “Thanks for your help” and he told me that he didn’t like what happened to his sustainable village when they were destroyed yesterday, so he wanted to become actively involved in living more environmentally friendly. On Wednesday, we had done our Creation Care workshop where the campers designed an environmentally sustainable village and then when they finished the YPTT drew in business, coal mines, etc, to show what happens to the environment when new industries are built. I was so happy that he continued to think about the topic the day after the session!

Another part of the week that I really enjoyed was going to worship with the campers. A couple times a bunch of the campers and staff started dancing as we sang. It was a completely different worship experience than I’ve ever had, but it was AWESOME to see how joyful they were!

-Annika

Camp Ithiel is an incredible place. As you are driving into it, you are completely surrounded by suburban neighborhoods and then Boom! There’s the camp entrance, and a whole new world behind it.

This week was an excellent experience for us on the YPTT, the staff were so welcoming and great! And the campers. The campers were CRAZY!! And I mean that in the best way possible! They were all so full of energy and it was such an great opportunity to get to work with them and try to channel that energy into the activities we had planned in our sessions!

One of my highlights of the week was the chance to join the campers in their Rec Choice time, playing alongside them in volleyball and soccer and all other types of games! Another highlight was getting to do our sessions with the youth. It was definitely challenging at times to get them to pay attention, but when we succeeded the ideas that they had were so insightful and awesome! This week was definitely a fantastic experience that challenged me, but at the same time was incredibly rewarding!

-Kerrick

Camp Ithiel is a beautiful place full of beautiful people, and we definitely want to thank them for a wonderful week! We greatly enjoyed the opportunity to work with the youth each day and the chance to hang out alongside them as well! Our summer as the YPTT is flying by and we would like to thank the people who have been praying for our ministry and for us! Thank you for all you do! Until next week, so long! Keep spreading peace and love!

Ending the Isolation–A Statement from the Office of Public Witness on the Recent Violence Against Black Churches

 “In recent years there has been a re-emergence of Klan-like hate groups and increases in racially motivated violence around the country.”

Report of Committee on Brethren and black Americans, 1991 Annual Conference

The horrific violence at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in opwCharleston, South Carolina is not an isolated incident. As Jelani Cobb states in his recent New Yorker article, “Even if [Dylann Roof] acted by himself, he was not alone” and the recent burning of 6 predominantly black churches underscores the systemic violence and racism that our black brothers and sisters have always faced in America. Burning of black churches has been an ongoing practice since the Civil War intended to terrorize black communities and leaders.

When black lives and churches are faced with an increased danger, they often feel isolated from the wider, whiter community. While our denomination is predominately white, we are still called to stand in faith and solidarity with all our brothers and sisters in Christ –especially those who persecuted. In response to the shootings at Emanuel AME Church, General Secretary Stan Noffsinger and Director of Intercultural Ministries Gimbiya Kettering sent a letter of condolence and support on behalf of our denomination. We must, as Stan and Gimbiya emphasized in their letter, ask our black sisters and brothers what they would have us do and how we can best stand with them. One way to do this right now is to contact black churches in your community –and let them know that they are not alone.

Crucially, we must also commit ourselves to the task of deconstructing and destroying the racism that lies within ourselves and our church. Our 1991 statement reminds us of the weight and importance of this task saying, “Because racism is built into our way of life, it is extremely difficult to unmask it and honestly face the radical changes that need to be made in ourselves and our institutions if it is to be eradicated.” If we are unwilling to commit ourselves to these tasks then we dishonor the gospel of Jesus and forsake our black brothers and sisters. Paul reminds us in the second chapter of Ephesians that Christ has brought down the dividing wall and destroyed the hostility that once existed between peoples. Thus, any hostility, racism, or violence towards one another is of our own doing and blatantly disregards the reconciling work Christ has done for us all.

It is more important than ever that we call out this racism and violence for the sin that it is, respond to the voices of our black sisters and brothers, join them in solidarity, and live out lives of faith and justice that repudiate racism and follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In Christ’s Peace,
Nathan Hosler
Director, Office of Public Witness

*Consider Donating to the National Council of Churches “Burned Churches Fund” to support these churches that have faced this recent violence:  http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/pages/burned-churches-fund

**If interested in further reflection, the text of Nathan’s sermon given at Washington City Church of the Brethren on this recent violence can be found here: http://washingtoncitycob.org/2015/06/28/there-may-yet-be-hope-a-reflection-on-the-charleston-massacre/

Devotions (EYN Daily Link) July 5 – 11, 2015

DAILY LINK WITH GOD 2015EYN Devotions graphic
A Daily Devotional Guide from the
EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)

EYN leaders in Nigeria believe prayer is one of the most important ways to support the Nigerian people and the Church.  These daily devotions were written by EYN members and published by the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. Reading them daily is a powerful way we can be in solidarity and connect with our brothers and sisters caught in this crisis.  EYN’s daily devotional for 2015 will be posted a week at a time on this blog, appearing mid-week for the following week. More information about the crisis can be found at www.nigeriacrisis.org.

Click on this link for Devotions July 5 – 11, 2015

Youth Peace Travel Team 2015 – National Junior High Conference

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Hey all you awesome people! YPTT here again! This time to tell you about the wonderful weekend we just had at National Junior High Conference! We had the opportunity to help lead some workshops and some recreation activities and of course hang out with the awesome junior high youth that attended! Here are some thoughts!

We spent June 19 – 21 at National Junior High Conference at Elizabethtown College! It was so fun to be able to hang out with the youth and leadership there! One of my highlights from the weekend was leading Ultimate Frisbee during recreation time. Being able to just go out and have fun with a bunch of youth from all over the place while playing a game that I love is definitely one of my absolute favorite things to do! Another excellent experience that I had this weekend was all of the wonderful worships that we all had together. In my opinion, there are very few things cooler than singing and worshiping together with a massive group of people! We also got to lead a YPTT booth at the carnival we had together, and we led the youth in Peace Hopscotch!! This was my first NJHC and it most certainly did not disappoint! The leadership did an amazing job of planning, and the youth all seemed genuinely happy to be there together! What a great weekend!!

-Kerrick

If I wasn’t annoying everyone with my knowledge of Elizabethtown College by day one, then surely it was obvious by the last day that I’m a student at E-town and I was excited to visit. As if I needed the extra excitement-National Junior High Conference was a blat. I saw many familiar faces, and met a bunch of new people. There was so much energy during worship and I loved the music. The worship services were so easy to relate to, even if I was a few years older than the target demographic, and I absolutely loved seeing Alexander Mack and Walt Wiltschek as Peter on stage in a skit together. The weekend brought back memories of when I attended NJHC and NYC, and I was reminded of why I loved those events so much.

-Brean

This past weekend was my very first National Junior High Conference. It was so cool to be with so many Church of the Brethren youth in one place at the same time. I helped lead peace games, and really enjoyed doing activities with a peace purpose. We played step tag to represent different ways to handle conflict. Additionally we played giant Jenga. As the youth took down each block they said a way they could peacefully begin to resolve conflicts. As the structure came down, each person wrote their thoughts on the blocks and we rebuilt a peaceful structure. I loved seeing the awesome and insightful ideas the junior high youth had. Eventually the original structure fell and a new peaceful structure was created.

-Annika

P.S. We also got to ride to NJHC with a super awesome group of youth from Virginia! We got the chance to get to know them a little bit and road trip together! We also got the opportunity to stop at Hershey Chocolate World with them, which is always a super amazing experience!! So a huge thank you to the two youth groups who allowed us to tag along with them to conference!