Devotions May 24 – 30, 2014

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 May 24th – May 30th 2015

Unnamed: Reflecting On Baltimore

A sermon at Washington City Church of the Brethren on May 3, 2015

By: Nathan Hosler

1 John 4:7-21

A week ago a nearby city was set aflame.

We likely felt many things during this time.

I was also reading for this sermon. Particularly reading and rereading the 1st John passage. Both these events and this passage require such depth of thought that I struggled to make sense and unpack all that needed to be considered. The passage was thick with theological considerations and the events contained layers hard to fathom. The passage begins:

7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

The potency of these words and the words that follow it are shocking when we pay attention and don’t read too quickly. Particularly how knowing and loving are connected in ways that we don’t typically connect.

Likewise the situation and discussions around race and police violence and community response require a depth of consideration that we may find hard to sustain.  What is needed in such a situation? Is it to name the unnamed?  To call out racism in our system—in ourselves? Should we try to “find out” what happened? Reading accounts and forming opinions on who did what and why and how? Do we need to form an opinion on what happened so we can choose a side, stake a position, argue a point? Does the world need me or us to say something, to add words to the cacophony, to argue for justice or truth or the institution or the oppressed community? Should we start with the text or the context? With God or the people?

It is in this situation that it is hard to know where to start.

This passage revolves around a particular, quite clear, and quite dramatic proposition.–

God is love.

'People Are Good'-Annie Howe/ HandOut

‘People Are Good’-Annie Howe/ HandOut

What does it mean for God to be love? We typically say we love—which is a verb—that is we love someone or something. Or perhaps that someone—perhaps God—is loving, but in this we see “God is love.” If we back up just a verse and a half earlier we read the exhortation “Let us love one another.”  This is predicated off of God as the source of love. It reads “for love comes from God.”

7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

And it continues saying not only is God the source of love but those who love are born of God. The passage includes God being defined as love, being the source of love, noting how God demonstrates God’s love, how Jesus’ appearance is the embodying of love, and how we are also to be defined by love as children of God.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

That we might live through him.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. God’s love is demonstrated to us through the giving of life. It is not so much that life is the ultimate goal as that it is the concrete expression of God’s love toward us. As such it is not to be taken lightly. Life is not to be thrown away. However, life is not the ultimate goal. At least life as we tend to describe it. As I believe Shaine Claiborne has said, the goal of life is not to get out of life alive. Meaning that life is of great value but in order to live I need to give my life, and not take life or devalue other’s lives because they are a different race, nationality, political opinion, economic position, or sex.

Why are there so many deaths by police in the news recently? Is there an increase or is what has always happened just making it into the news? I recognize that I am a white man and as such feel both compelled to talk about racism and a little anxious. But I feel that I must at least attempt to speak.

I must admit I am unsure what to say. You have likely heard much talk of what happened and how people responded. You likely heard that though there were many strong responses to Freddie’s death these varied in how they were manifest on the street. You also heard people’s responses to these various actions and then heard other people criticizing certain leaders for calling people involved in destruction “thugs.” I was neither there nor am I an expert on all that was said or done. I, as such, don’t feel qualified to comment very specifically but do feel compelled to respond in some manner—at least give some reflect on how we as a church might respond. I am, of course, not assuming that our congregation or denomination is only white. This would further monopolize who is assumed to be “really” Brethren. I am also not assuming that everyone is either white or black as if those are the two binary options. Nor am I assuming that any of these groups are monolithic without cultural, political, theological, historical, or other differences. Though Brethren are not mono-ethnic or mono-culture it is critical to recognize that Brethren persons of color have often been marginalized and experienced racism and prejudice at Brethren events. The January edition of the Messenger magazine bears witness to this. So while this sermon is not attempting to comprehensively address race and racism in our church I felt these few notations were necessary.

In addition to preaching, I am also a doctoral student in theological ethics. One of the books on my shelf that I hadn’t gotten to reading yet was James Cone’s A Black Theology of Liberation. The book was first published in 1970 to provide an expanded theological reflection and foundation to the Black Power and Civil Rights movements. So while beginning to think toward preaching this Sunday in light of Baltimore I began reading this work. He begins asserting a basic presupposition that should guide the work of theologians. He writes,

“Theology can never be neutral or fail to take sides on issues related to the plight of the oppressed” (James Cone, “A Black Theology of Liberation: Twentieth Anniversary with Critical Responses,” Orbis Books, p4.)

As such, taking sides with the oppressed is the organizing principle rather than fairness. Because when fairness is the dominant approach the dominant will always come out on top. The dominant can control media and hold sway (or control) institutions. This does not however mean that truthfulness is abandoned but that our stance should be partial towards the oppressed. The default presumption is on the side of the oppressed. This is an expression of love as we have experienced in God.

Regarding Baltimore, when I hear claims of racism my default must be to presume that this is the case rather than my default being to question the claim. This means that my basic default is to trust such a claim rather than the counter claim of the system of the empowered and powerful.

“10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

The logic and flow of this passage continues on quite clearly. God is love. God demonstrates love to us concretely through the coming of Jesus. Since we are in relation to God and God loved us we should love others. Even though we have not seen God we see God manifest and “made complete” when we demonstrate God living in us by loving on another. We also know that we know that we live in God because he has given his Spirit. Because of this we can rely on God and trust God’s love for us. We also can live without fear. We read:

“18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

There is of course the possibility that we get stuck here—with the loving and being loved by God and not fearing because we are relying on the love of God. It is, in fact, a good place to be. We do, however, have the tendency towards narcissism—the tendency to stop with ourselves as if we and our wellbeing are the end goal. This can even happen when we serve our church or our neighbor. It is hard to get outside ourselves. This is, of course, our primary reference point but it also can become our end point.

In these verses the love we experience originates in God and flows to us in Jesus and the Spirit but concretely presently manifest in those around us. We then love but as a response to first being loved. The passage reads,

“19We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. 20For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.  21And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

So the love of God is manifest in those around us and must go out from us to our brother, sister, neighbor, and even those deemed our enemy. This is how we experience and show the love of God.

This love must seek justice. It must challenge racism in our communities and globally which prioritizes certain people over others. This love must also challenge the presumption that violence is ultimately effective by confronting the militarization of our police and foreign policy.

We must name what is unnamed.

Seek justice.

Embody love.

Amen

Abel’s Daughter – A success story

Written by Rhoda (secretary for the Nigeria Disaster Team)IMG_0308

Abel was a staff member of EYN Headquarters. He worked in Mubi before the Boko haram attacked that community. In November he was assigned a new position as Medical Officer with the Relief Team. He has a 14 year old daughter named Sarah. In October she was at school with other children when the attack in Mubi started. She was kidnapped with other children and kept in Mubi under the supervision of the Boko Haram people.

Sarah was injured as a result of bombings by the Nigerian Air force on the buildings occupied by Boko Haram and the kidnapped children. Many children lost their lives while Sarah was wounded in the leg. According to Sarah, she was attended by Doctors and her leg was amputated from the knee down without any form of pain relief. She said she was well taken care of by the Boko Haram. It is believed that the Doctors and other workers serving Boko Haram are citizens kidnapped either in their homes or on the roads.

However, Abel was devastated and distraught. He had come to Jos with all the staff of EYN headquarters but he couldn’t think of anything or concentrate on anything because of his missing daughter. His wife was so sick and heartbroken, the situation was very pathetic. The church kept praying for God to strengthen Abel and at least show him a sign that his daughter was dead or alive. I was so concerned because of how Abel looked at our Relief team meetings. In December, Abel received a call that his daughter has been rescued and was in Cameroun with other children. What an unbelievable relief to Abel.

Sarah was brought to Jos and received all the necessary medical attention. The team visited Abel at home with his wife and Sarah. I broke down in tears when I saw Sarah and I am hoping the Boko Haram did not molested her sexually, because she is young and very beautiful.

Abel has accepted the state of his daughter in good faith and is strengthened by the help of EYN and Church of the Brethren.  He was assisted with money from the relief funds to be able to take his daughter to a big hospital where she could get very good medical care. She is fast recovering and hoping to go back to school by next year.  “I want her to continue with her education” said Abel. They are also hoping Sarah will be fitted with an artificial limb.

Sarah - Abel's Daughter

Sarah – Abel’s Daughter

TODAY–Immigration Webinar: Ending Family Detention

Today at 4 PM EDT, Join us and others from the Interfaith Immigration Coalition for a webinar on Ending Family Detention and Eliminating the Detention Bed Quota.

Recently participants at Christian Citizenship Seminar advocated to their elected officials for an end to family detention, and hundreds of other people of faith marched in Dilley, TX last weekend, prayed outside the White House, and gathered in Berks, Pennsylvania to end family detention. Children and mothers seeking refuge in the U.S. should not be detained. The Obama Administration closed all but one small family detention center in 2009, yet they were opened again after tens of thousands of Central American children and families fled to the U.S. last year. Some children and mothers have now spent as long as 8 months in jail-like facilities as their deportation proceedings move forward. Now momentum is building to end this inhumane practice again.

Meanwhile, the detention bed quota for Immigration Customs Enforcement, set by Congressional appropriators at 34,000 beds, is driving detention decisions and creating huge profits for private prisons that hold contracts with ICE.

Please join the call to find out what we can do to stop family detention and end the bed quota.

Please RSVP Here

Speakers:

Britney Nystrom, Director for Advocacy at Lutheran Immigration Refugee Service

Rev. Kelly Allen, Pastor at University Presbyterian Church, San Antonio and Co-Moderator of the Interfaith Welcome Coalition

Mary Small, Policy Director for Detention Watch Network

Call In Number
805-399-1000
Code 104402

The link for the visual portion is http://join.me/faith4immigration

Drawing strength from Jesus and each other

by Donna Parcell (Volunteer just returned from Nigeria)

I am overcome by the strength and resilience of the people of Ekklesiar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN-Church of the Brethren-Nigeria).  Everyone has a story.  There is not one who has not been affected.

There is Zakariya, who hasn’t seen his mother in two years and doesn’t know if she is alive or dead.  And Ibraham who heard from a former neighbor that his father was killed by Boko Haram.  There are those who saw their parents or children killed.  Pastors tell of witnessing people in their congregation killed or tortured.  People fled in different directions, and many have not seen or heard from family members in months or even years.  Everyone we meet has lost someone.  Everyone.  I can’t imagine this happening to my own church.

Most have spent time in Internally Displaced Persons camps (IDP), living in tents with scarce food and water and crowded conditions.  But the children still laugh and play.  They make up games and fashion toys out of discarded water containers or broken tires.  They all have many mothers as the entire village looks out for each other.  They often cook together as a community and fellowship together.

The EYN members in Jos have taken in and cared for displaced persons into their homes.  It is common for a family in a 2 bedroom house to be caring for 50 additional people.  They are not discouraged by this, they are finding ways to take in even more people.

They firmly believe that this persecution will result in spreading the word of God and growing the church, just as it did in the early church.

Despite a burned church - EYN still meets

Despite a burned church – EYN still meets

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.  And yet, they are not poor in spirit.  Yes, they grieve and struggle deeply with their loss.  But they rely heavily on each other for encouragement, support, and guidance.  They turn always to our Heavenly Father, and trust Him in all things.  They are confident in the love of Jesus, and have incredible faith that He will sustain them and bring peace to their country.

They are so appreciative of the concern of the global Church of the Brethren.  They feel covered by the prayers that are placed before the Throne daily on their behalf.  They are humbled that they are remembered and prayed for.  They are strengthened by our concern and prayers.  And through all of the horrific events of their everyday lives, they continue to pray for us.

#SendItBack on International Conscientious Objectors Day: Michael Himlie’s Example

Today is International Conscientious Objectors Day. A day established in recognition of the long and storied history of conscientious objectors across the world. The Church of the Brethren was founded and built by people of conscience and we celebrate our tradition of conscience with a story from Brethren young adult Michael Himlie. Michael has carefully considered his beliefs and we support him in his journey of conscience and faith. Michael shares his story below.

“The official position of the Church of the Brethren is that all war is sin and that we seek the right of conscientious objection to all war. We seek no special privileges from our government. What we seek for ourselves, we seek for all – the right of individual conscience.”

–1970 Annual Conference Statement on War

card purning

Hi everyone! Michael Himlie here! In early April, 2015 I decided to further my stance on war, and not only maintain my position as a conscientious objector (C/O), but also submit my draft card to the Selective Service System (SSS), personally considering myself “deregistered from the Selective Service System”. For those of you that are not as familiar with this, it is not possible to deregister, the SSS does not even file C/O claims during “peacetime”. When I sent in my draft card this is the letter that I sent with it:

To whom it may concern,

My name is Michael Himlie; I am from the Root River Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District. This letter explains my understanding of war, and because of my beliefs, why I cannot and will not promote the structural violence of the Armed Forces.

As a very young child I was taught that violence is wrong. Today I believe that every problem, threat, or issue can be resolved nonviolently, that war is a curable disease. The Church of the Brethren, the denomination to which I belong, is considered one of the three historic peace churches. In addition to being active in the denomination, my work with organizations such as Brethren Volunteer Service, Christian Peacemaker Teams, On Earth Peace, New Community Project, and more are further proof of my dedication to a non-conformist lifestyle. Furthermore, violence is simply not an option for me; peacemaking is the only way for me to get to where I wish to go. If I want to bring peace to this world I must first find peace within myself, which I cannot do if I belong to the Selective Service System.

A personal commitment and vocation of being a follower of Jesus does not allow for me to submit to a system of violence, where maiming human life is honored by millions. I will not. Being a follower of Jesus, I will not discriminate, I will love all. With this, I choose to submit my draft card (Selective Service System card) back to the United States of America, signifying that I am no longer a part of the Selective Service System. I will personally be following up, to make certain that my stances are understood and accepted.

In Peace,

Michael John Himlie

After submitting this letter to the SSS I had received the following letter back from them with the enclosure of my draft card back to me.

National Headquarters I Arlington, Virginia 22209-2425
http://www.sss.gov
April 7, 2015

Mr. Michael J. Himlie
604 East College Avenue
North Manchester , Indiana 46962

Dear Mr. Himlie:

This responds to your letter postmarked April 2nd expressing your objection to war and promotion of “the structural violence of the Armed forces.” Thus, you enclose your Registration Acknowledgment Card and contend that “I am no longer a part of the Selective Service System.” I am returning your card because there is no authorization under the Military Selective Service Act to remove any man who has registered validly.

Virtually all men in the United States ages 18 through 25 are required by law to be registered with the Selective Service System, even though there has not been a draft since 1973 and none is contemplated in the foreseeable future, and even though they consider themselves a conscientious objector (CO). Registration is both a legal and civic responsibility.

Under the Military Selective Service Act , classification as a conscientious objector (CO) can only be made by a Selective Service Local Board; there is no provision for a self-designation . Further, classifications would only take place if a draft were underway because presently there are no active draft boards in existence nor claims for CO status being considered. In fact, the last draft ended over 41 years ago. However, upon reinstatement of a draft, all individuals who receive a notice to report for induction have an opportunity at that time to file a claim for reclassification, postponement, or exemption, to include CO status . But this opportunity to claim CO status only applies to men who are in our database, are called, and file the claim. Our boards are made up of individual volunteers who are nominated by the State Governor and appointed by the Director of Selective Service on behalf of the President. These uncompensated civilian men and women are from the area covered by the board and are reflective ethnically of the geographic region they serve. The document which describes all claims and the procedures to file for each, our Information for Registrants booklet, can be found at under publications and then under registration materials. Thank you for your observations.

Sincerely,

Richard S. Flahavan
Associate Director of Public &
Intergovernmental Affairs

The SSS had returned my draft card to me, assuring me that it is impossible to deregister from the SSS. I feel that it is only right that I send my draft card back to the SSS, encouraging them that they had made a mistake. That I really do not want my card and that I no longer need it, as I consider myself deregistered from the SSS. While this is my personal decision, I have been blessed with the support of On Earth Peace, the Office of Public Witness of the Church of the Brethren, and Dunker Punks Inc.

michael pole

These actions will most likely never change how the Selective Service System works, but rather is to be more oriented towards building community among Brethren and friends who would like to join the movement in sending our draft cards in unity. I would also like to widen our community to those not submitted to the SSS, like women and those under 18 years of age, but would like to stand in solidarity with the Send It Back community. What I am asking is for you to consider sending you draft card back with me, increasing the number of cards sent in unity, every time the SSS sends our cards back to us, as they had sent mine back to me.

draft card

Above you can see a picture of my draft card, and yours probably looks similar. I would encourage and challenge all of you to consider how you can stand in solidarity with this project. I would encourage you even more to consider being in touch, sending in our draft cards together, assuring the SSS that we will not be silent, and we will not submit to a deeply rooted systemically violent practice. If you would like to learn more, and/or join the Send It Back community, please contact Michael Himlie at mjhimlie_23@hotmail.com or 507-429-4243. with it: https://mjhimlie23.wordpress.com/…/submission-of-draft-car…/ Today I received this letter back from the SSS: https://mjhimlie23.wordpress.com/…/selective-service-syste…/

The SSS had returned my draft card to me, assuring me that it is impossible to deregister from the SSS. I am currently working on ways to strengthen this act of nonviolent protest on war, and would like your help! It the coming days I should have more information about how I intend to strengthen this stance, in reassurance of my decision to deregister from the SSS. May peace be with you, sisters and brothers! #‎SendItBack with it: https://mjhimlie23.wordpress.com/…/submission-of-draft-car…/ Today I received this letter back from the SSS: https://mjhimlie23.wordpress.com/…/selective-service-syste…/ The SSS had returned my draft card to me, assuring me that it is impossible to deregister from the SSS. I am currently working on ways to strengthen this act of nonviolent protest on war, and would like your help! It the coming days I should have more information about how I intend to strengthen this stance, in reassurance of my decision to deregister from the SSS. May peace be with you, sisters and brothers! #‎SendItBack

With much peace and love,

Michael Himlie

Devotions Daily Link May 17-23rd

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 May 17th -23rd 2015

Plans for prospering

Hannah Schultz

Hannah Shultz. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

By Hannah Shultz, BVS unit  #307
Chapel reflection May 6, 2015

“For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

This was my favorite Bible verse as a child. There is something inherently comforting in the words, especially for a small child with an unknown future. But as I repeated these words to myself, I always thought that this promise from God was kind of vague. “Plans to give you hope and a future”—but what kind of future? “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you”—but prosper me how?

Last May I graduated from Juniata College where I had been actively involved in campus ministry. My senior year I was the president of the Christian ministry board on campus, and because of this role, had been asked to speak at our baccalaureate service the night before graduation. The verse Jeremiah 29:11 was the scripture that was chosen for this service, and as graduating seniors getting ready to move into an unfamiliar and unknown future, I felt that it was an appropriate message with which to send us off into the world. The promise of prosperity and a future is what all of us were seeking as we left Juniata.

As I prepared a few words to share with my graduating class I reflected on my favorite childhood scripture one more time, but again, as I read these words, I wanted to know more. What do I need to do to prosper? It turns out the answer to this question comes a few verses earlier. Verse 7 says: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Growing up, service was a big part of my life and it continued to be important during my time at Juniata. It was fairly easy to be involved with service activities. From spring break service trips, to events such as Science Olympiad, Relay For Life and Special Olympics, Juniata provided opportunities to contribute not only to the prosperity of the surrounding community, but the school also encouraged us to reach out to our world. Leaving Juniata I knew I would need to make an effort to continue making service a part of my life when opportunities were not as readily available right outside my door.

BVS seemed like a perfect fit, and I’ve felt so blessed to be part of the workcamp team where I’ve had the opportunity to plan service trips for youth around the country. From working on farms, to serving in soup kitchens, to spending time with senior citizens and working with the intellectually disabled, I feel confident that during these weeks we will be contributing to the prosperity of others, and that we will be nourishing our own journey with God and creating lasting friendships. In our service to others, we will also prosper.

In the past year or so, I’ve begun to recognize that prosperity not only comes from direct acts of organized service, but also from more subtle acts of compassion and from responding to causes you believe to be important. Regardless of religion, ethnicity, gender, or any other identity used to discriminate and set people apart from one another, we are all human, and we all have a responsibility to one another. We are all being called to fight against human suffering, to produce love in the face of adversity and to bring fortune to those around us.

In light of the recent events in Baltimore, Jeremiah 7 has been running through my head. I was born in the suburbs of Baltimore and lived there until I went to college. Although I spent most of my time in the suburbs, with only infrequent trips downtown, I do consider Baltimore to be my home. I have family who live near the areas being destroyed and I recognize the names of businesses and streets where the destruction was occurring last week. My personal connections to Baltimore play only a small part in influencing my feelings regarding what happened. It would be heartbreaking to watch any city in our country or our world be devastated and torn apart by violent acts.

As someone who is not a part of a racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic minority I cannot pretend to understand the feelings of the protestors and I cannot pass judgment or pretend to believe that I may not have been tempted to act out in similar ways if I were in their situation. The reactions we were seeing in Baltimore were not just stemmed from feelings of anger towards the incident with Freddie Grey’s death. The problems facing Baltimore are rooted in decades of injustice, discrimination and police brutality. I fully support the right to be heard, and recognize that rioting is an avenue many have taken to achieve this purpose. A Time article recently addressed this exact point and quoted Martin Luther King JR as saying

“…in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met….”

It was however, distressing to watch the continual and systematic destruction of a place so many call home. Protesters were setting fire to their own homes, neighborhoods, places of business, of education, of worship, of recreation.

It’s a shame that the violent acts of destruction are the ones that receive attention. There were a significant number of peaceful protests on the streets as well, but the media had not allowed those protests to represent the voices of the discouraged. Alongside stories of peaceful protests, it has also been encouraging to hear about the actions those have taken to clean up the city and restore what has been lost. Posts on my Facebook news feed switched back and forth between status’ revealing opinions on the matter, and posts listing information regarding times and locations of clean-up activities, urgently calling volunteers to help for an hour or two. My pastor from my church at home posted a Google doc listing where help was needed, contact information and supplies requested. It was encouraging to see our communities come together in response to the recent events. Another beacon of hope last week came from an unexpected gathering of clergy and gang members who stood side by side to end the violence. Gangs who were notorious enemies came together to protect their community. These are the stories that should be flooding the media, these are the stories that inspire hope and shed light in times of darkness. It’s good news such as this that helps to promote peace and prosperity.

In the fall of my senior year I took a class called “God, Evil and the Holocaust”. After spending the semester discussing the atrocity of the holocaust and the role of God during those years, we were asked to write a final paper in which we answered where we thought God was during the holocaust, and how this affects contemporary faith. Regardless of the answer to the first question, the class unanimously decided that the darkness of the holocaust demands us to take full accountability for the destruction we commit against one another and calls us into responsibility for resisting injustice and helping the victims of suffering. The holocaust demonstrates the power of darkness in our world and challenges us to learn from our past and actively resist allowing something similar to happen in the future. There is an organization called Charter for Compassion that has a charter that talks about this issue beautifully. The last part of the charter reads

“We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.”

 

LamplighterThe call to compassion reminds me of a story I heard about the author Robert Lewis Stevenson. Robert Lewis Stevenson, best known for his adventure story, Treasure Island, was in poor health during much of his childhood and youth. One night his nurse found him with his nose pressed against the frosty pane of his bedroom window. “Child, come away from there. You’ll catch your death of cold,” she fussed. But young Robert wouldn’t budge. He sat, mesmerized, as he watched an old lamplighter slowly working his way through the black night, lighting each street lamp along his route. Pointing, Robert exclaimed, “See; look there; there’s a man poking holes in the darkness.” I love the image of light breaking through perfect darkness.

One of our workcamp daily themes is “imitating Christ’s humility as light” and we talk about carrying the light of Christ into the world. This summer I’m excited to witness acts that drive light into dark places and I hope to inspire youth to make service and compassion a luminous and dynamic force in our world. I know feel like I understand the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11. This is the future God has promised me and I know that through the work I am doing, I am also prospering.

 

EYN Devotionals May 10th – 16th

Link

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 the May 10th – 16th 2015

Responses to Care for the Displaced around Yola

By Peggy Gish (Volunteer in Nigeria)

Vinikiling campI had been taken to pieces of land being developed into a settlement of small houses for the Nigerian people displaced by the violence of Boko Haram, and a camp of newly constructed buildings where families will start moving into in three weeks. Both sites were nestled in among trees and brush, on the edge of Abuja. I had heard about displaced families crowding into homes of relatives or fellow church members. Today, however, we were visiting five IDP camps around the city of Yola, considered a safe area, three hours south by car from the villages and towns from which these people had fled.

At one site, in a fenced in area of buildings right in the city, owned by a private resident, 200 mostly women and children, milled around a large yard. In another, managed by a government agency, which felt more discouraging to me, about 4,000 people were packed into large halls in barracks at a former military site, some for women and some for men. Many of the people sat and lay around listless in the shade or inside buildings, in the 115 degree (F) heat, while flies buzzed around. Residents on cooking duty, stirred large pots of mush and stew for their communal meal. At a third camp, workers were in the midst of a boisterous game with the children.

This was in contrast to a small camp in a rural area outside the city where families had constructed their own small, traditional dwellings out of reeds and grasses. Men sat around under shady trees. Children played around or gathered around a water pump helping pump water for other residents. Here, life was very basic and hard, but allowed more privacy and normalcy of daily life.

Our last stop was at an EYN (Nigerian Brethren) Church on the edge of Yola, organized and developed by EYN, but for people from various church backgrounds. Over a thousand people live on the grounds in tents. Leaders described their organized children’s activities, nutrition and economic training programs for women, and medicine dispensary, assisted by the International Rescue Committee (IRC). As in other camps, they received some of their food and supplies from Nigerian and international agencies. Playful children crowded around us eager for any attention we might give them. kids in campIMG_5165

There were stark contrasts to conditions and settings, yet all were forms of the wider community responding to the needs of tens of thousands of people who had suddenly fled their homes in fear during the past year. People have been torn away from their homes, school, and work, but are being cared for, until they are able to face the challenges of returning and rebuilding their lives and communities.