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.

Stretching Exercises

Not seeing today’s post? Hit the “refresh” button on your browser.AWAKE_ADVENT_4


Psalm 125


To ponder:

As I left the grocery store, a man stretched out his hand and asked me for several dollars to buy some food. Keeping his eyes on the sidewalk, he explained that his family was hungry and he didn’t have any money. Reaching into my purse, I handed him some money in response to his need, which he gratefully accepted before entering the store. Was he telling me the truth? I don’t know. What I do know is that Jesus calls us to feed the hungry and in doing so, we feed Jesus. Let us welcome those who have need into our hearts this Christmas. In doing so, we welcome Jesus.

Prayer for the day:
Stretch us, God, to see Jesus in those whom we meet along the way to Christmas. Then stretch us to respond in the spirit of Christmas with love and kindness. Amen.

 

~ Kim Ebersole, Director of Family Life and Older Adult Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent Devotional written by Sandy Bosserman, a former district executive and ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Sandy’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Good for Goodness’ Sake

Not seeing today’s post? Hit the “refresh” button on your browser.AWAKE_ADVENT_4


Philippians 3:7-16


To ponder:

“All I want for Christmas is…” How do you complete that sentence? The popular song from my childhood says that “two front teeth” are at the top of the Christmas wish list. I don’t know about you, but toys usually graced my list when I was younger. As I grew older, my list changed to reflect my maturing understanding of life and my deepening faith. Now, like Paul in his letter to the Philippians, knowing Jesus and living out his teachings so that others may see the love of Christ reflected in my life are at the top of my list. It is a lofty goal, but Paul encourages me to “keep on keepin’ on.” What do you want for Christmas this year?

Prayer for the day:
Generous God, you gave the world the best gift of all when you gave us Jesus Christ. Give us strength and courage to put Christ first in our lives so that we may experience a taste of the Kingdom of God here on Earth. This is our Christmas prayer. Amen.

 

~ Kim Ebersole, Director of Family Life and Older Adult Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent Devotional written by Sandy Bosserman, a former district executive and ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Sandy’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

A genealogy of grace

2013 Advent good_news_hi_res  Matthew 1:17

Prayer for the day:

Surprising God,
like those who experienced the first Christmas so many generations ago, we stand amazed in your presence. Thank you for giving us the gift of Jesus, whose birth we celebrate and whose life we emulate.

God of grace,
help us to use this Advent season to prepare our hearts to welcome Christ into our world and into our lives.
Amen

Question for reflection:
Tim Harvey shares the story of how his great-grandfather, an outcast, was welcomed into the community of faith. This Christmas, how are you and your congregation welcoming people who are marginalized by our society?

~ Kim Ebersole, Director of Family Life and Older Adult Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent Devotional written by Tim Harvey, pastor of Central Church of the Brethren (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Tim’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

 

‘Immanuel’: God with us

Isaiah 7:13-14

Question for Reflection:
What does the gift of “God with us,” Emmanuel, Jesus, mean to you?

Prayer for the day:
God, we have anticipated this day for weeks now, building expectation through Advent worship, devotional study, decorating, gift buying, serving our neighbor, food preparation, sending cards and so much more. On this day of Jesus’ birth, may our anticipation and preparation transform into sacred hope, promise, light, peace, and joy.  With gratitude for promises made and kept, we pray. Amen.

~ Jonathan Shively, executive director, Congregational Life Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent Devotional written by Walt Wiltschek, campus pastor of Manchester University. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats) Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Walt’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

 

The baby Jesus: At the center

Matthew 1:25

 

Question for Reflection:
How are you entering sacred space today?

Prayer for the day:
God of mangers and stables, of shining stars and heavenly choruses, alert us to the arrival of your son.  Enter into our space and time in a form that we recognize as human and yet know as divine. Transform this world through the holiness of this night. Break into our lives through the cries of a baby, through Jesus the Christ. Amen.

~ Jonathan Shively, executive director, Congregational Life Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent Devotional written by Walt Wiltschek, campus pastor of Manchester University. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats) Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Walt’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.