Food, medical care, school fees, and home repairs are among March activities

Food Distribution at the Yola Relocation camp.                              Patience, a widow and mother of 8, expressed her thankfulness to the Disaster Ministry. “You can see my tears of joy for what your help means to me and my children.”

 

 

Educational assistance for 56 children. School fees were paid for both elementary and high school students. Most high schools are boarding schools with students living at the school. Thousands have been widowed by the Boko Haram insurgence and they cannot afford to send their children to school. The mothers are very thankful for the assistance.

Re-roofing of burned homes continues for the most vulnerable. “We never thought of assistance coming to us this way. (20 homes in the area were given new roofs) We continue to have challenges including lack of good water and fear when going to our farms.”

 

Medical help was given to around 400 persons. Adequate medical care is still unavailable without traveling long distances and then most cannot afford to pay for the care. EYN Disaster Ministry medical staff helped 5000 persons last year.

Please continue to pray for Nigeria and donations are greatly appreciated.

Congressional Briefing on Nigeria

On March 22nd, the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy and the Nigeria Working Group hosted a congressional briefing on the topic of returns to the Lake Chad Basin.  With the Church of the Brethren’s connections to northeast Nigeria, this topic of returning Nigerians to their home regions is very relevant to our work. Accurate and timely information about the situation in Nigeria is essential for quality relevant U.S. policy in the region.

Panelists presented on the topic of returnees and garrison towns in the Lake Chad Basin. Photo by Nathan Hosler.

The briefing was based in part on a report by Refugees International, one of our partners in Washington, DC that does extensive work on Nigeria. Other speakers included staff from Mennonite Central Committee and Search for Common Ground. The report addressed the issue of returnees and garrison towns, and gives recommendations for the various actors in Nigeria to mitigate some of the risks that come with the pressure to return IDP communities to their original homes.

You can find the full Refugees International report here.

One reoccurring theme in the report was the importance of the truth to the success of return policy. First of all, the Nigerian government must provide accurate and timely information on the conditions of regions to which they they plan to return IDPs, and allow the returnees to make the voluntary decision on whether to return to the region or not based on that information. There is fear within the humanitarian community that, because they want to claim successful returns during the upcoming elections, Nigerian officials will force IDPs to return to unsafe areas with inadequate resources and limited accessibility.

The importance of truthful analysis of conditions in IDP camps is also essential to a quality humanitarian response. The report highlights the issue of IDP camp management denying psychosocial support and other support services, because those in charge of the camps want to paint a more positive picture of the crisis situation than is accurate.

Refugees International makes several recommendations to the Nigerian government, including the adoption of an official policy towards IDPs and the creation of a well-planned return strategy that avoids involuntary returns of IDPs. The report also recommends that donor governments continue funding programs in Nigeria.

The Office of Peacebuilding and Policy will continue to coordinate efforts with other Nigeria-focused organizations in Washington, DC to bring these important policy concerns to U.S. lawmakers. The better our policymakers understand the humanitarian and security concerns in Nigeria, the better they will be able to target assistance and peacebuilding efforts in the country. It is important that the United States strive to be a helpful partner to the Nigerian people as they strive towards peace and justice within their communities.

Would You go to the Wakanda Workcamp?

This is what happened when the Church of the Brethren talked about the Black Panther

Word cloud of good movie subjects

Whose story would make a great movie?

Last week over 25 people gathered to talk about our experiences of watching Black Panther – the ways it was inspiring, troubling, entertaining and thought-provoking. There was a lot of diversity on the call: We called in from across the country and represented many different communities in our denomination. We were college students and District Executives. Some of us are life-long fans of superheroes and for others this was the first time they were watching a Marvel movie. It was a multiracial call –even more diverse if you counted the racial diversity of the families we represent.

I want to thank everyone who participated for the open, thoughtful, and respectful conversation. The reflections and questions were profound and often surprising. The conversation returned frequently to the portrayal of violence – the amount of it, the graphic nature of it, who were the perpetrators, how it worked as an allegory, and how it reflects the reality of violence. In many ways, I was reminded that I was having a conversation within a community that self identifies as pacifist. (Though when asked to list our favorite movies, most of them could also be described as violent.) The call ended with reflections on the ways we work to create multiracial communities.

Based on the survey before the call, we are twice as likely to watch a Will Smith action movie than one that reflects on race. Below are additional reflections based on the survey.

Question 1: How Often Do You Watch Movies? (please include home viewing)How often do you watch movies?

Question 2: Which of the following movies have you seen?

The original survey listed over 40 titles. They were generally grouped by era (i.e., Slavery, Civil Rights, Jim Crow, Contemporary, etc.) and genre (documentaries, inspired by true stories, romance, comedy, etc). In the end, looking at the data, I noticed a few trends:

  • We Watch About History:
    • 237 responses identified watching historical set movies (Civil Rights Movement or earlier) to current (defined as 1980s to now).
    • The top four categories coming in at over 40 each were related to Slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, Classic Novels, and Women biographies.
  • When we watch Current Events – We want to be entertained
    • The 5th most common response was action movies starring Will Smith at 31 responses
    • Contemporary Romances came in next with 29 responses
    • Comedy, Horror, Blaxploitation brought a combined: 51
    • At total 111 responses – this is still less than half of the times we identified watching historically inspired and/or set movies
  • We do NOT watch commentary. Maybe not many are made or maybe not many have nationwide release. Maybe we mean to watch, but put it off because we are afraid of how it will make us feel. Or maybe the way I listed the questions created bias…BUT…
    • 17 Responses for documentaries based on social commentary
    • 14 for movies with a satirical take on race
    • 13 for documentaries about current events
    • And ONLY 7 responses for PBS based series focused on the African American experience in history

Question 3:   Which African American historical figure, book, story, and/or character would you like to see made as a movie?  See word cloud above. The larger the text, the more people listed it as a movie they would be interested in seeing made.

Question 4:   Out of ALL (not just the ones above) the movies you have ever seen, which 2-5 are your favorites? In the interest of space, I would like to say these movies were many and more diverse than I expected. A number of people referenced: Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings. Princess Bride and Selma tied at 5 mentions each. The Butler got 4. Most unexpected to me was Gone with the Wind –three times. Eight people identified Black Panther!Pie chart showing percentage of White (majority), Asian (smallest number), Black (next in number), and Multiracial (largest number other than White) respondents..

Question 5:   Please describe your race/ethnicity.
Note: Based on self-identification, it was necessary that some counted more than once.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Based on the information from the survey, I would recommend we stretch ourselves by watching movies that challenge us to listen to how race impacts the experience of brothers and sisters:

Intercultural Ministries will host a conversation about the National Geographic Issue about Race (April 2018)
–Thursday, April 26 at 1:00pm EST–

Access this video conference:  https://redbooth.com/vc/01f9f83893e4f7e1
By phone: Dial +1 415 762 9988. Meeting ID is 180230133 (no participant ID)
Handwritten calculations of survey responses

DISCLAIMER: This is intended to spark conversation and encourage you to think about the movies you have watched, and not watched, in new ways. Special thanks to the 66 people who took this survey! This survey has absolutely no scientific rigor or standards and there may be errors in calculations I had to make by hand. If you have passion and skill for constructing surveys, crunching data, and want to help with this and/or future surveys, please let me know! Check out my high-tech survey equipment! –→

 

 

Gimbiya Kettering, Director, Intercultural Ministries
Church of the Brethren

 

Caring for the vulnerable

Tori Bateman (far left) at the meeting about Unarmed Civilian Protection.

By Tori Bateman, associate with the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy

“God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish” (Psalm 9:18, NIV).

The Church of the Brethren’s identity as a historic peace church means that we are committed to nonviolence and peacebuilding around the world. During my time as a Brethren Volunteer Service volunteer in the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, I have had some amazing opportunities to advocate for peace in Washington, D.C.

Over the past several months, we have advocated for the practice of Unarmed Civilian Protection (UCP) in the Department of State, the United States Agency of International Development (USAID), and the Department of Defense. UCP is a method for keeping peace and safety in tense situations without the use of weapons or military action. Instead, unarmed individuals are empowered to work through relationships, mediation skills, and other peacekeeping methods to protect those living with conflict.

One example of the successful endeavor of UCP is from South Sudan. Women there were often raped by soldiers when they left their camps to collect firewood and water. To reverse this alarming trend, Nonviolent Peaceforce ran an accompaniment program that involved staff members going with women to collect firewood. As a result, whenever they encountered soldiers, the presence of international observers prevented rape from occurring. In 2015, there were no women afflicted by rape who were accompanied by Nonviolent Peaceforce staff. This is a great example of caring for vulnerable persons.

To present this innovative idea to U.S. policymakers, I worked with a colleague from a Catholic organization to coordinate a State Department meeting about Unarmed Civilian Protection. We invited Mel Duncan, co-founder of Nonviolent Peaceforce, and Nonviolent Peaceforce staff members to speak about the effectiveness of their practices.

The event was attended by staff from the Department of State, Department of Defense, and USAID. Attendees heard not only about the work of UCP, but also the amazing stories of the individuals in conflict zones who have been protected by the actions of UCP. The conversation lasted well after the event ended and we are excited about future opportunities to collaborate through relationships made at this meeting.

Your support for the Church of the Brethren makes possible this and other important peacebuilding initiatives. Thank you for helping us reframe the conversation about peacefully supporting and accompanying those in need.

Will you give to the Church of the Brethren today?
www.brethren.org/give

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Sowing for Glory

by Nathan Hosler. This post is a sermon from the day after the Going to the Garden Summit. 

John 12:24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

This is basic gardening.

Sowing assumes loss but anticipates great gain. In sowing the sower turns over the precious seed to the dark earth. The seed is hidden from light in secret places where worms roam and the mystery of life takes root. This insight, is, however, general. Anyone with experience or basic understanding of plant stuff will get this. Jesus is going beyond.

Imagery and analogy of plant life abound in scripture. In 1 Cor. 15:36-37 we read:
35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 Not all flesh is alike, but there is one flesh for human beings, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory. 

Sowing assumes loss but anticipates a harvest. Sowing is the intentional burying of an object that appears dead and then awaiting the pushing forth of new life. The multiplication of the small to the many. Last year, a sunflower seed that sprouted on its own grew to 8 feet tall with well over 100 hundred blossoms from a single stalk. This growth is mysterious, unexpected, almost uncontrollable—yet also fragile, at times easily destroyed, and precarious. However, the seed must be sown, buried, abandoned, set free.

Sowing the seed of life is the same.

 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

 The cost is great but the result surpasses even this. Verse 26 continues, Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

Jesus sows with the anticipation of glory and invites us to the same. This is not suffering for suffering’s sake. And it is not personal suffering for personal gain, it is for others. An oft repeated and type of unofficial mission statement of the Church of the Brethren is: “For the Glory of God and for our neighbor’s good.” In James 3:18 also uses the imagery of sowing. The New Revised Standard Version reads. “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.” The New International Version reads “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

If one loses their life (either literally or figuratively) as part of a gamble to save one’s life, then it would seem like the point has been missed. “Gambling”, however, even if one’s motive is clear, does not convey quite the right sense. For, to gamble is to bank on chance, which is rigged so that losing is neigh inevitable. Sowing—sowing is much different. Though it is still not guaranteed success, sowing is done out of trust, resolve, skill, perseverance. The sowing is risky, it is an embrace of the unknown.

This weekend we held a Going to the Garden initiative gathering in New Orleans. This brought Brethren community-based gardeners from around the country to share of their efforts in dynamic (some might say radical) community gardening. Gardening that confronts the displacement of Indigenous peoples, that builds community, that reveals racism and challenges mass incarceration, that, as one gardener describes it “is growing more than veggies.” For some, the congregation eventually told the pastor that they supported him spending as much time as he felt called in the community gardening. One took a Fed-ex night shift so that the daylight hours would be free to garden. Another stayed in the Lower 9th ward after working in disaster response to the hurricane Katrina. People left home to follow the call of God on their lives. Some envision how it may help to reintegrated formerly incarcerated individuals. (In my description you may hear the strains of the “great cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 11).

A classic text of this giving up of one’s life is Luke 9:23.

“Then he [Jesus] said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Sowing assumes loss but anticipates a harvest. Sowing is the intentional burying of an object that appears dead and then awaiting the pushing forth of new life. The multiplication of the small to the many.
5 minutes of silence—Congregational Response—on sowing

 

Jeremiah 31:31-34
31:31 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

31:32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt–a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD.

31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

31:34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

A defining characteristic of the new covenant inaugurated by Christ is the breaking beyond ethnic and geographic boundaries. In Ephesians 2 we read.
12 remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body[c] through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.[d]17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 

This “new covenant” is announced already in the prophet Jeremiah. The vision of this passage concludes with:

31:34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

These prophecies have a predictive quality but also a visioning function. They shape the imaginations of the people who seek God. In Baltimore there is the American Visionary Art museum. In DC at the Smithsonian American Art Museum at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in NOLA there are sections dedicated to “visionary art,” These typical include art works—almost always bright, rather wild, often apocalyptic—which are often based on “visions” and biblical texts. Often these “folk” artists labor for years in insolation, creating. Prophecies such as Jeremiah participate in shaping the imaginations of the people who seek God. They shape the imaginations of the people who seek God. This shaping, however, does not mean that the task, the goal, the bringing of the Peace of Christ is simply up to the will of the church nor the will of humanity but is carried forward by the action of God. It is not simply something that we work juuust a little harder to achieve. The Spirit of God carries it forward.

Of our Gospel passage in John commentators write, “Thus, ‘lifting up Jesus’ is not something contemporary preachers and Christians are charged to do, but something that has been done by God’s act at the cross and resurrection.” (Craddock and Boring, 330).

Our work as a community remains clear: gather to worship God, proclaiming the peace of Christ through word and deed. This ministry of reconciliation seen in 2 Corinthians 5 brings us to reconciling people to God and people to people (as well as all of creation).

These prophecies have a visioning function. They participate in shaping the imaginations of the people who seek God.

Interview with Released Chibok Girl

This interview was submitted by EYN’s Disaster Team Correspondent. Bear in mind that some of the blog may be difficult to read due to the horrific nature of the content. As we read news of the Dapchi girls being released and we near the 4th anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok girls (April 14th), we remember and pray for the hundreds of women, young men and girls who remain in captivity under Boko Haram.

Here is what was shared by one of the rescued/released Chibok girls. 

Chibok Girls April 2014

“ We stayed under trees, even when it was raining, no room, we were surrounded with thorns. When we were abducted, they gave us food. Sometime 2 to 3 cows were slaughtered for us. Ah! But afterward when we refused to get married, while some were married, they denied us food. We had to feed on bush yam, leaves and soup that was what we ate.  Those that agreed to be married left and were married in Gwoza when Boko Haram captured the place, but we that refused to be married are those released.”

On what about those that are married? “I don’t know. But for us, Shakau wanted to know our stand, ‘you are not doing sallah, I don’t understand which religion you are practicing?’ Then we said not that we are not doing sallah but we don’t believe the religion (Islam). He said ‘do you mean you still have your religion in mind since you are not following what is being taught?  We did not bring you here for love or clothes. But those of you asked for marriage’.

“Then he gathered those that are married and asked them, all of you who are married if you want to go back to your homes we can take you back. Then they replied that they prefer being killed in the forest and proceed to Aljan (Paradise).  They are up to 60. Those of us killed by bomb are up to 10, and 9 died in the process of delivering, some are paralyzed, others lost their hands or legs, others can no longer hear properly, to communicate with them one has to shout before they are able to hear. The forest where we stayed has no house but they (BH) have tents where they cover themselves when it is raining. There were many guards around us”.

“This is what we were writing among us”.  She showed us an exercise book where she said they used to write Words of God and letters to friends themselves in the forest.

“We continued praying when they are not around us. We were 205 abducted, 106 are freed. We were not allowed to stay alone. No. When we were to come home, 4 among us refused to come with us, they said they want to stay and follow Islam.  They said if their parents would come and join them they will receive them to Islam. “When we refused to be married they forced us to do some hard work, breaking of stone, cutting trees, washing their wife’s clothes, constructing of their thatch houses.  they said we are slaves, so we were forced to do different works. We cannot describe where we were. Some of us attempted to escape. When they were caught they were given 100 lashes, denied food for good two days, and were tied with ropes and thrown under trees. They were separated from us for short distances where we could see them, but we cannot help them. But we sometimes hide and snuck under grasses to assist them with water, when we see BH then we ran.”

Marching to remember those still in captivity

“One day Shekau’s deputy came to us – he dug a hole and lay down one of the girls in front of the hole, that she is going to be slaughtered. They called one girl, said to have been abducted when she visited her boyfriend in military barrack in Chibok. She was asked to slaughter the girl laying down. She said ‘is she a sheep or goat? ’one Boko Haram member replied her, yes she is a goat but not edible.  She refused, that she cannot slaughter her.  As she persisted, she was told to lie down so that she could be slaughtered instead, which she did. Then some of them (BH) said leave her while other members of BH said free them but would punish her when they would be freed.

We were not allowed to look at them in the face. They beat us. When we were in the forest, a man appeared from the air to rescue us, but he fell in the midst of BH and was tied with rope dragged to forest and was killed.  Another man, a father of one of us, went to free his daughter, that why his daughter should could be abducted. We made to understand that he is one of the sect members. Then BH told him if we are to free any not only one but all others.

“It is not true that NGOs (Red Cross) take food to the forest by plane.  They only went there when they wanted to pick us, even that day, they did not carry anything along; they were even waylaid by BH and were warned if they are coming to take us by force they (BH) will kill them along with us.  So, they were afraid and left.  Later on, Boko Haram called them that they can come. Shekau and Buhari communicated.”

Celebration following the release of 82 girls

Introduction to Human Trafficking

by Doris Abdullah, Church of the Brethren United Nations Representative

The nurse looked at the face of the young girl wrapped from head to toe in white gauze and tape. The chart listed her name as Jane Doe and her age of 12 /15 had a question mark beside it. The policewoman spoke up to say: “Lucky she is alive. We found her in a dumpster beside the highway.”

The above composite of a girl child found beaten and near death occurs all to frequently in rural areas, near small towns and cities around the world. Jane Doe is a victim of human trafficking and she can just as easily be found hospitalized in Cincinnati, Ohio, Lima, Peru, Tokyo, Japan, Melbourne, Australia, Jos, Nigeria, Bangkok, Thailand, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Ghouta, Syria or Moscow, Russia. Human Trafficking, also known as Modern Day Slavery, is a worldwide phenomenon. Slavery and slavers taskmasters are as old as human civilization. Modern day Human Trafficking is driven by high demand, high profits and low risk. The high demand comes from manufacturers making shoes and clothes, agriculture producers, corporations in mining, small fisheries, and the demand for body parts and sex. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and other reporting agencies estimate the worldwide profit for Human Trafficking to be as high as $150 billion annually. (1)

It is not possible to consent to slavery. A trafficked person is devoured of personal freedom. The trafficked person is bought and sold against their will. Violence and the constant usage of violence is the weapon of trafficking. Trafficked persons are held in forced bondage for exploitation. When violence does not restrain, slaves are held by ropes, handcuffs, in cages and chained under locks and keys. The trafficked person’s loss of freedom comes by means of forced abduction, fraud, deception and/or coercion. Trafficking is the complete control over another person for the sole ill purpose of exploitation. The traffickers uses their human bondage until they are used up thereby condemning the trafficked person to death. The only way out of bondage is to escape or be rescued.

Slave auctions are mostly held in secret, but law enforcement have carried out trafficking raids in exclusive hotels and even in the VIP lounges of major airlines in cities around the globe. In addition auctions over media are used for clandestine advertising and specification on types of slaves’ available. The media is also used to lure children, girls and women into slavery. Girls and women are often lured by the false promise of a job and a better lifestyle. Girls and women represent 79% of the trafficked victims world wide. The high demand for a large supply of slaves has resulted in more than 30 million persons being held in human bondage across our world. Some United States reporting from 2012 to 2016 estimated 600,000 to 800,000 persons being trafficked within the country. (2) The overwhelming amount of those trafficked in the US are females and half of the females are estimated to be children. If we use the high of 800,000 and 80% of them females, we are speaking of 320,000 slave children in the United States. (3)

Trafficked children and women for sexual exploitation are not sex workers. They are sex slaves and they are victims of exploitation. Abducted and seduced children are robbed of an education, stunted in their physical growth and robbed of their childhood innocence. They are used for child prostitution and in child pornography and child labor. Children born of rape, poverty, disabled children and runaway children are most vulnerable to be trafficked. Children are also easy to discipline and are usually to afraid to complain or escape from slavery. Abducted and coerced females are forced into prostitution. Slave women are often tattooed which further diminishes them as a human being and serves as a reminder that they are the property of others. The Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others UN General Assembly resolution Preamble states: “Whereas prostitution and the accompanying evil of the traffic in persons for the purpose of prostitution are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person and endanger the welfare of the individual, the family and the community.”(4) Sex trafficking in children and women has been estimated to be a $100 billion dollar a year industry.(5)

Girls and women are also abducted, trafficked and forced into early marriage and domestic servitude. Undocumented and even documented females are vulnerable to exploitation as domestic slaves, because of deportation fears, language barriers among migrants and immigrants in addition to being debt bondage victims. The demand for labor in the agriculture sector drives males and females trafficking in the United States. Domestic or labor, the slave is paid for only one time, and the cost of a slave is cheaper than paying wages. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the period 2013-14, show an increase in trafficking for labor, just slightly behind sex trafficking.(6) 63% of the data show that the slaves were men. Violence, playing on the immigration status as well as perpetual debt when wages were paid. The producers and miners impose fees for mandatory transportation, food, communication and housing cost which prevents indebtedness and freedom from ever being realized for those entrapped in bondage.

Men makes up 82% of those trafficked for organ removal. Organ trafficking has been reported to be greatly under reported and remain hidden underground. The skill set involved to remove organs involved the criminal help of professionals from the medical sector. The demand for organs far out pace the supply. The US Department of Health and Human Service from January, 2014 reported: 120,999 persons were waiting for organs, but only 10,587 donors were registered. (7)

The face of Human Trafficking display gender-based violence and cultural norms in addition to pay gap, gender poverty, lower employment opportunities, and women employment in unregulated and informal sectors as domestic helpers and agricultural which increase their vulnerability to trafficking and exploitation in our industrialized country. A citizen that was made aware of human trafficking made these remarks. “I never thought there was human trafficking (in Ohio). The problem was in front of my eyes. I just did not pay attention.” (8) We all must open our eyes and become aware of Human Trafficking. Stop Human Trafficking

References

1. UNODC United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Global Trafficking Report

2. Human Rights Trafficking Fact Sheet NO 36

3. The Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons

4. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, Supplementing the UN Convention against Trans National Organized Crime, 2000 (Trafficking Protocol)

5. UNODC United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Global Trafficking Report

6. Country Profile North America Trafficking GLOTIP 16

7. HHS The US Department of Health and Human Services

8. HTS-2016-Annual Report-Ohio Trafficking

Other References

1. Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Sales of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography in the United States Najat Maalla M’Jid

2. Terminology Guidelines for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse Adopted by the Inter-agency Working Group in Luxembourg 28 January 2016

3. US State Department Document Report 2016

4. ILO International Labor Organization

5. Human Trafficking Trends (Polaris Project)

Racial righteousness

Joshua Brockway and his Sankofa partner,
Drew Hart, stand with their group in July 2017.

By Joshua Brockway, director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship

Last summer I had the privilege of participating in the Sankofa Journey hosted by the Evangelical Covenant Church. Sankofa is an intentional effort to address racial injustice both within the church and in society. We traveled in mixed-race pairs on a bus to historically significant sites of the Civil Rights Movement—Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma, Jackson, and Memphis.

Sankofa is not a tourist trip. Rather, it is an intense learning experience built around conversations between partners and among the community that forms on the bus. The Evangelical Covenant Church describes Sankofa as a “journey towards racial righteousness.” Given the climate of race relations in the country today, I found that choice of words striking. We often think the counter to injustice is justice. So to use the theologically rich word of “righteousness” helped me to see racism in a new light.

In the New Testament, the Greek word for “justice” can also mean “righteous.” The meaning relates to relationships with one another and with God as well. In other words, to be just to one another is also to be reconciled with God, and to be reconciled with God is to be right with one another. Unfortunately, English is not able to bring those two important meanings together in one word.

Congregational Life Ministries staff are planning a racial righteousness workshop before Annual Conference this year to build on the rich meaning of biblical righteousness and justice. The city of Cincinnati played a key role in the Underground Railroad and has historic cultural resources related to our country’s story of racism. We have chosen to call this workshop “Diakaios,” after the New Testament Greek word for “justice” and “righteousness.”

We pray that this small effort will model prayerful conversations about race and white supremacy among the Brethren. And we are looking forward to the spiritual fruit it will bear in our church.

Your gifts to the Church of the Brethren support this and other initiatives that train Brethren disciples to continue the work of Jesus. The February issue of Messenger has articles by me and three others who participated in the Sankofa Journey last year. Your contributions supported the racial righteousness training of these individuals and prepared them to share in leadership at the workshop in Cincinnati. Please pray with us for a Spirit-led transformation of the church that works toward the vision of Revelation 7:9: a people from all nations, tribes, and languages gathering to worship the Lamb of God.

Learn about this summer’s “Dikaios and Discipleship” workshop at www.brethren.org/dikaios. Support the work of Congregational Life Ministries at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Special Relief Benefits 658 Muslim and Christian families

Markus and others bring greetings and food

Gurku Interfaith community lies on the outskirts of Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. Muslims and Christians live and work side by side. They are Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) who are from the Madagali and Gwoza areas of Northeast Nigeria, the area most affected by the Boko Haram Insurgency.

In December and January, news of various attacks reached the Gurku community. Since communication to this remote area is so difficult, the community decided to send volunteers to find out first hand what had been happening. Here is what they found:  Nine villages had been attacked, 17 people killed, 39 homes burned, 28 businesses destroyed, and five villages had suffered looting of personal belongings and food supplies. With this devastating report, a committee was formed to plan a relief effort to the area. The committee included elders and youths from both faiths. Nigeria Crisis Funds were able to provide $7,500 for the project.

Check points along the way

How do you get help to areas where it is almost impossible to travel? How do you let the remote areas know that help is coming? Who will be willing to travel to the area to take the relief? How do we get help to the most vulnerable? The committee dealt with all these logistical questions. Three zones were designated to get the relief. The recipients of the relief were chosen from among the neediest. It was determined that 74 families who had lost loves ones would be given cash support. 116 bags of corn would be divided among 580 families. The corn was purchased from nearby markets. Two vehicles and local hunters were engaged to transport the corn. Help was secured from military and security personnel.

Recipients at Shuwa Zone

After all the preparation, it was time to actually enter this highly unstable area and get the food and money to the people. Markus Gamache, one of the founders of the Gurku Interfaith community, was invited to participate and take the relief to the three zones of Shuwa, Gulak, and Madagali.

Here are some of his reflections from the trip:

“I was given one Hilux truck full of hunters and we went speeding into those areas. We could only stop for ten to twenty minutes to deliver the goods and encourage the people. We sped through villages that were dried up and in ruins with only a few people in the entire place. When we finally reached Madagali, where I had not been since May 2014, the only cars or motor bikes I saw belonged to security agents. I thank God I was even able to see my mother who is now living in Madagali. The entire trip was tension filled; there were four checkpoints where we had to get out and walk for some ways before getting back in the vehicle. As we drove through the villages, I saw people waving to me with big smiles on their faces, but this brought tears to my weak heart. These are my people and they are not free. How can I live comfortably in my home when so many are suffering?”

Corn ready to be distributed

This project was only obtainable by the huge effort of the committee from Gurku, Markus Gamache, and countless other volunteers along the way. To receive the aid, people had to travel quite a distance to reach one of the three distribution points. Plans were also made in each zone to cover transportation of some of the corn to remote areas that were not accessible. In all, 658 families were assisted. The families who received cash got about $30 each and they were very grateful. They said the cash would sustain them for months by helping purchase food, provide travel to fleeing families or pay for medical services. The families who received corn were also extremely thankful. Some of these families had not eaten for three or four days due to recent attacks.

Thank you to everyone for their continued support of Nigeria Crisis Response! Without your help, this special distribution would not have been possible.

More than we can imagine

By Craig Thompson

By the Rev. Thea Leticia Racelis

“Now to God be the glory, who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

It is easy to feel overwhelmed when we look at all the areas of need in the world. There is hunger, sickness, decay, and injustice in so many communities. It is easy to feel that we are too small and too insignificant to make a difference and believe that nothing we do can help.

But there is hope! Better yet: we are that hope! As the Apostle Paul writes, “by the power at work within us,” God is able to “accomplish abundantly more than we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it succinctly when he wrote, “We are the agents of transformation that God uses to transfigure the world.” We know that we are part of God’s answer to the need in the world! As followers of Jesus, we know that God’s dream for all people is not that we would strive to be separate, caring only for ourselves, but that in community, we would practice love and compassion. When we share our resources, there is enough for us all! We share our resources because, as Brian Peterson writes: “we are not simply filled ‘with’ God’s fullness as something to make us feel satisfied and content, but we are filled for the goal of God’s fullness in and for the world.”

We are all connected, and we derive our identity from God “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (Ephesians 3:14b). We are all part of the family of God whether we live in an agricultural community in Nicaragua or in a bustling city in the United States.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians reminds us that we do not act alone. We act as the church, a gathering of God’s people, still living into Paul’s prayer and being “rooted and established in love” (Ephesians 3:17b). John Stott shares, “Paul likens [the Christians of Ephesus] first to a well-rooted tree, and then to a well-built house. In both cases, the unseen cause of their stability will be the same: love. Love is to be the soil in which their life is to be rooted; love is to be the foundation on which their life is built.”

As Christians, living into this loving legacy, we act out of faith knowing that God is using our contributions in ways that we can’t foresee and multiplying blessings in ways we would never expect. We act knowing that we are part of God’s imagination.

Will you be part of God’s dream for the world? Will you accept the invitation to make a difference and see what God will do with our giving?

We pray that you and your congregation will be inspired to give to One Great Hour of Sharing with hopeful expectation of what God will do. It will surely be more than we could imagine.

This theme interpretation was written for the 2018 One Great Hour of Sharing. Find this and other worship resources for the offering at www.brethren.org/oghs. Give today at www.brethren.org/giveoffering .