Beyond our control

Partners of Mano Amiga de los Hermanos, a ministry of the Spanish Church of the Brethren, celebrating the harvest. Photo courtesy of Santos Terrero

Partners of Mano Amiga de los Hermanos, a ministry of the
Spanish Church of the Brethren, celebrating the harvest.
Photo courtesy of Santos Terrero

A reflection by Kendra Harbeck, manager of Global Mission and Service office.

While our American holiday of sharing lists of gratitude while over-eating and watching football is still a week away, the Office of Global Mission and Service has been giving thanks with partners around the world for the past few months.

Mano Amiga a los Hermanos, a ministry of the Spanish Church of the Brethren, pulled in a beautiful harvest to help feed immigrants in need. Brethren in the Democratic Republic of Congo rejoiced in the maize harvest they shared with members of the Twa (Pygmy) group. A ministry with the Church of the Brethren in Brazil worked with inmates to grow a garden within a prison. And Global Mission and Service volunteer Turner Ritchie shared the joy of the rice harvest at Asian Rural Institute (ARI) in Japan.

At the same time, the past months have been filled with stories of hunger around the world, millions of people in need due to violence or drought in Central America, South SudanNigeria, and beyond. People are in need due to factors beyond their control.

From our God who works through juxtaposition, I hear the call to give beyond our control. It’s a hard challenge. And it always has been.

Matthew 14 tells us of a time when the disciples tried to convince Jesus to send away the massive, hungry crowd who was listening to him on a hillside. I bet the disciples were exhausted and in no mood to manage what could easily turn into a massive, angry crowd. Likely, they were also hungry and wanted to keep their meager rations for themselves. “We’ve given so much already,” they might have said. “We’re not ready to offer this too. Let us at least have some control over our own supper.” But Jesus would not be bossed around or controlled: “YOU give them something to eat.”

In this time of thanksgiving for God’s generosity and the fruits of creation, in this world of great abundance surrounded by great need, we are called to feed God’s sheep. We are not to worry about carefully calculating how much money we can pass on after we’ve met our needs, imagined needs, comforts, and wants. We are called to feed our sisters and brothers with more than we are ready to share. Called to give to anybody that asks of us, even and especially when it doesn’t fit into our plans. Called to open ourselves up to Christ’s way of selfless love and to let our lives be changed beyond our control.

My prayer is that God will help us to do so.

Global Mission and Service is a Core Ministry of the Church of the Brethren. Learn more about its programs at www.brethren.org/partners or support it today at www.brethren.org/give

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

In God’s family we all belong

Ann Ziegler with children from Hogar de Niños Emanuel .

Ann Ziegler with children from Hogar de Niños Emanuel .

By Ann Ziegler, former Brethren Volunteer Service volunteer

Throughout the last two years as I lived at the Hogar de Niños Emanuel (Emanuel Children’s Home) in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, I learned more about what it means to be part of the family of God. When I arrived I didn’t know what to expect. I knew there were about 80 children being cared for by employees, but I knew nothing about these children, their backgrounds, or what they were like.

After two months, I learned the name of each child, and that many were siblings. I was sometimes surprised to find out who was a sibling to whom. In time though, I learned what it meant to be a member of the family that is Hogar de Niños Emanuel.

There is no doubt that on that plot of land surrounded by the city, there is a family of over 100 members—a family that is one of the most welcoming families I have ever met.

After living there for 8 months, 12 new children were brought to the home. It was an exciting day and everyone was curious about the newcomers. For me, these new children seemed out of place. Even after the first day, I felt as though they just didn’t quite belong. What I learned, however, was that in this giant family, everyone belongs. For this family there was no such thing as being a stranger. I saw every child welcome each of the new children to the table for lunch, proudly give newcomers tours of the home, and they all became brothers and sisters right before my eyes.

This experience was incredible, and it taught me a bit about my own prejudices and struggles with accepting change. This is not to say that everyone in the family of Hogar Emanuel always gets along, or even that they like each other all the time, and there are always “black sheep” in a family. However, all are loved as siblings, and everyone knows that they belong in this family.

I was privileged to be a member of that family. A glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven shines through those children. The way in which they live is an example for all of us. We are all called to invite one another to the table, regardless of someone’s background, and to become brothers and sisters in God’s great big family.

Ann Ziegler recently completed her term of BVS in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. To support the work of Global Mission and Service, including Brethren Volunteer Service visit www.brethren.org/give.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Walking with Brethren in the Dominican Republic

Pastor Sauveur Charles from La Descubierta Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic explains the regularization process to Jeff Boshart. Photo by Nathan Hosler

Pastor Sauveur Charles from La Descubierta Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic explains the regularization process to Jeff Boshart.
Photo by Nathan Hosler

By Nathan Hosler, director of the Office of Public Witness

Statelessness. Ecumenical cooperation. Regularization. These are words that describe the work of the Office of Public Witness. Words that make many eyes glaze over. But these words of jargon are closely linked to the actual lives of our sisters and brothers in the Dominican Republic. For them, these words are critical—not abstract, theoretical, or of little interest.

This past December, Jeff Boshart, manager of the Global Food Crisis Fund and the Emerging Global Mission Fund, and I traveled to Haiti and the Dominican Republic to visit the Brethren churches there. In 2013, there was a change of legislation declaring that all persons of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic after 1929 were rendered not Dominican. Since they were not born in Haiti, they were also deemed not Haitian. People caught between these parameters became stateless—a legal issue of citizenship but also an enormous risk of exploitation and trafficking. Additionally, those who immigrated to the Dominican Republic before 2007 needed to complete an expensive, difficult regularization process.

As Jeff and I met with people in this situation, it became increasingly apparent that the system wasn’t working. Many could not begin the process of regularization because of the great distances from their homes to the appropriate offices. Others had begun the process, but had spent all their money through repeated trips with little or no progress. In this situation we, and the Brethren in the D.R., engaged in ecumenical cooperation and coordinated between US denominational programs to offer help.

As you read this now, much has changed. In late spring, Global Mission and Service began assisting Dominican pastors to support Brethren in the registration process, and Church of the Brethren congregations in Miami, Fla., sought ways to provide support. Also, in Washington, D.C., the Office of Public Witness communicated concerns and shared in strategic collaboration with organizations like Church World Service. Recently, with the threat of mass deportations from the D.R., that may begin as soon as August 1, the government of Haiti has said it is unprepared to handle a great influx of people. Nonetheless, we continue to advocate for all who are stateless.

The issues we see in the Dominican Republic and in other places are not simply for a policy wonk or theologian—they are issues of life, livelihood, and family. I know many of us feel overwhelmed by the great needs we see, the seemingly endless conflicts, and continued injustices. However, we must endure in faithfully bearing witness to Jesus who gives life and a sense of belonging to all.

Grants of $16,000 have already been allocated by Global Mission and Service and the Emergency Disaster Fund (with plans to give more) to support Dominican Haitian Brethren in the regularization process. Learn more about Church of the Brethren international partnerships at www.brethren.org/partners .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Reframing lives

Village leaders meeting in Lohila, South Sudan. Photos by Becky Rhodes

Village leaders meeting in Lohila, South Sudan.
Photos by Becky Rhodes

A reflection by Becky Rhodes

While women were out cultivating the fields, village leaders sat on benches under the large shade tree in the center of Lohila in South Sudan. The 500-year-old village, often isolated during the rainy season, has never had a school for their children or a church building for worship. In November 2014, villagers identified these buildings as their great need—an opportunity for a better future following the prolonged violence.

The community of Lohila is a longstanding partner of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service program. The success of this partnership to construct the school and church depends on mutual investment and commitment.

On a recent visit, which included members of the Mission Advisory Committee, a spokesman of the village shared plans for building the foundations and walls for the church and school. Roger Schrock, a former missionary in Sudan and the co-leader of our group, applauded the inclusion of women on the village’s building committee. Athanasus Ungang, the Church of the Brethren staff member in Torit, provided an update on supplies en route from Kenya and introduced our group.

As the leaders spoke, the number gathered under the tree began to grow. Women and children gradually approached and began listening to the conversation from the periphery. Then an unexpected yet powerful voice rose from the group. A tall, statuesque woman holding a baby stepped out of the crowd. “Others have come here with promises, but they never came back,” she said. “Your coming to us today is God coming to us. As God parted the water for Moses, God has parted the grass [since South Sudan is land locked] to lead you here. Your presence blesses us, and God is blessing you.”

History tells us the biblical story has influenced great leaders. In his Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln referenced Psalm 90:10 and God as Creator. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech reached its highest point with echoes of the prophet Isaiah: “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low… and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” Great leaders reframe people’s lives in the biblical context.

I experienced an immediate and deep connection with this woman as she spoke our shared language of the Bible. She talked about the same Moses I know and love: the imperfect servant leader who cared for his people. There were many leaders in Lohila that day, but the most powerful voice belonged to the woman holding the baby. She is a great leader. Her words invoked our shared belief and trust in God. She reframed our lives, our relationship, and our work in the context of the biblical story. God is with us! And God with us is a solid foundation on which to build.

Learn more about Global Mission and Service at www.brethren.org/partners or support it today at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

New steps in the new year

Where will God lead you in 2015? Photo by Glenn Riegel

Where will God lead you in 2015?
Photo by Glenn Riegel

By Matt DeBall, coordinator of Donor Communications

January can be a great time for setting goals and reflecting; a time to observe our steps from last year and chart a new path for this year. We might make personal challenges related to fitness, nutrition, recreation, relationships, or finances, but sometimes we also receive challenges from God.

God has surely given great challenges to others in the past. For Abraham, God called him to leave his family and explore a foreign land filled with unfamiliar people. For Esther, God led her to a new role and called her to take a great risk to save her people. For both, the choice was available to reject God’s call, but by trusting in God and summoning a great amount of courage, they stepped forward and accepted God’s challenge.

In 2015, there are many events and opportunities to partake in ministry through the Church of the Brethren. Perhaps God is calling you to participate in one or more of the following ways:

Pray for our international partners by receiving the weekly Global Mission Prayer Guide.

Grow by attending a transformative conference like the Intercultural Gathering, Young Adult Conference, National Junior High Conference, Annual Conference, and National Older Adult Conference.

Serve through Brethren Volunteer Service for a year-long project, attend a summer workcamp of the Workcamp Ministry, or spend a week at a disaster project of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Give to support the continued work of the many life-changing ministries of the Church of the Brethren.

Like Abraham and Esther, we have the choice to remain where we are or to follow where God is leading. While it would be easier to carry on in 2015 just as we did in 2014, God may be challenging us to do something new. May we listen to the Spirit of God, step forward in faith, and trust God to guide our steps in the coming year.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Great things in 2014

From all of the staff, volunteers, and Mission and Ministry Board members of the Church of the Brethren, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

From all of the staff, volunteers, and Mission and Ministry
Board members of the Church of the Brethren,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Thank you for praying, serving, giving to support the Church of the Brethren in 2014. There are many things that we were able to do together:

2,390 students, advisers, staff, and volunteers attended National Youth Conference (and 19 from international Brethren groups).

123 volunteers served 248,720 hours at Brethren Volunteer Service projects.

9 Ministry Summer Service interns explored their vocations in ministry placements across the country.

Volunteers maintained a Brethren presence in 9 different countries.

Over 377 deacons and church leaders attended 9 deacon training events.

19 BVS volunteers served at international projects, and 11 international students served in the US.

98 individuals participated in the Church Planting Conference.

152 Global Mission Advocates are now connected to the network.

165 individuals attended 4 Intercultural Ministry related events.

140 participants served at 8 workcamps.

83 congregations began or continued participating in the Vital Ministry Journey.

62 individuals represented 13 districts at Young Adult Conference.

3 Mission and Ministry Board meetings were held and 3 new members were welcomed.

684 congregations financially supported the Church of the Brethren.

151 donors gave to the core ministries of the Church of the Brethren for the first time.

And so much more!

Thank you for generously giving to your church. Your faithful support is inspiring, and ensures that the many life-changing, loving-giving ministries of the Church of the Brethren will continue into the future.

If you are excited about or have been blessed by the ministries of the Church of the Brethren, support them at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Love with your life

The 2014 Camp Harmony workcamp. Photo from Jenna Stacy

The 2014 Camp Harmony workcamp.
Photo from Jenna Stacy

By Jenna Stacy, 2014 workcamp coordinator

“Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity…” (1 Timothy 4:11).

Our theme scripture for workcamps this summer was 1 Timothy 4:11-16. It highlights five words that help us “teach with our lives,” and each day we focused on one: word, demeanor, love, faith, and integrity. We defined them, read scripture that addressed them, told stories, and used lives from Brethren history and current times to show how others have taught with their lives.

While teaching my workcampers about this scripture and how we can teach with our lives, they taught me a lot too. And while the curriculum stayed the same each week, the kids did not; each one brought something priceless and unique to worship.

One recurring lesson that stuck out to me all summer was with the theme of love. We included a list of definitions of love in the leadership resources, all from four- to eight-year-olds. Here are a few of their answers:

“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.”
—Billy, age 4

“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.”—Chrissy, age 6

“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.”—Jessica, age 8

All of these definitions of love are so pure, but the one that stood out to me was from four-year-old Terri, “Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.”

You may know that a workcamp summer is an exhausting one—traveling from place to place each week, living out of a suitcase, learning new names and addressing new needs of children. There was one week in particular when I was insanely tired, but I kept going because of love—love for workcamps, love for the kids and the excitement in their eyes, love for teaching with my life, love for God, and God’s love for me. Love is what kept me going this summer, and kept me smiling, even when I was tired.

I pray that you feel God’s love when you are tired and that his love will continue to make you smile so that you can continue on your journeys and teach with your lives.

Workcamps are part of Global Mission and Service ministries. Support these important programs at brethren.org/give . See photos and more at brethren.org/workcamps .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Columbus, here we come!

Photo by Joel Brumbaugh-Cayford

Photo by Joel Brumbaugh-Cayford

“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5).

Annual Conference is two weeks away! Whether you’ll be in Columbus in person or not, there are many ways to participate in this important ministry of the Church of the Brethren. Here are a few ideas:

  • Daily offerings – During most evening worship services, an offering will be taken to support the ministry of Annual Conference. Funds raised will help cover the many expenses of producing such an efficient and creative conference. To participate online, visit www.brethren.org/giveac2014 .
  • Webcasting – If you won’t be at Annual Conference in person, be sure to join us online for all worship services and business sessions at www.brethren.org/acwebast . Webcasting is complimentary, but it is expensive, so please support our virtual community at www.brethren.org/giveac2014 .
  • Witness to the Host City – During Thursday evening worship, socks, disposable diapers, and hygiene kits will be collected for this year’s Witness to the Host City. Visit www.brethren.org/acwitnessto find what you can bring to share the love of Jesus with Columbus.
  • Special offering – A special offering will be taken during Friday evening worship this year. It will support the core mission and ministries of the Church of the Brethren like Congregational Life Ministries, Global Mission and Service, the Offices of Ministry and Public Witness, and many, many others. Participating in this special offering on July 4 will support the life-changing ministries of the Church of the Brethren, but if you can’t wait until then, visit www.brethren.org/give today.

“Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).

(Read this issue of eBrethren)