Some Highlights – Fellowship Tour August 2016 (Part 1)

Jessie with Carl & Roxane Hill

Jessie with Carl & Roxane Hill

(by Jessie Marsiglio, PSWD Pomona Fellowship CoB)

From America we set off with expectations and ideas that were quickly squelched.  We thought Nigerian life would mimic our sheltered American existences.  Americans MUST have kitchen appliances, good paved roads, uninterrupted utilities and internet, well stocked grocery stores and every other convenience of our everyday life.  But we found no appliances, potholed and muddy roads, intermittent utilities and internet, street/bazaar vendors, garbage routinely piled on the sides and median of the roads, constant military checkpoints.  AND THAT WAS THE FIRST DAY.

But despite all that, all the people we encountered were friendly and loving, helpful, kind and generous.  The poorest of the poor, the homeless in the IDP (internally displaced persons) camps have hope for better days — so much so that the light of God shines in their entire faces and actions.  The Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN) staff and pastors all were hopeful that we would carry their stories back to the States for all to know.  We also met with leaders in the community and heads of non-EYN organizations who befriended us and talked about their efforts and hopes.

Destroyed Bridge

                   Destroyed Bridge

Travel throughout Nigeria was difficult but we had fantastic drivers who avoided (as much as possible) potholes and road blocks and who deflected the military checks.  Evidence of Boka Haram (BH) invasion and Nigerian military actions were still evident on every road.  One specific bridge had been destroyed to halt the BH and to cross it we went down and back upward on 90 degree angles.  Markus jokingly said we should walk the bridge and I took him up on that challenge.  As I got to the bottom of the rubble and started up the other side, I had such a feeling of wonderment, scare, etc.; and I think I must have felt the same as the Nigerians as they first crossed that bridge.

Destroyed and temporary church at Michika

Before the BH, the church at Michika had had three services on the first three Sundays of the month with one combined on the fourth for a combined total of 3000 members.  BH waited until the benediction on that fourth Sunday before shelling the church.  Now the congregation is reduced to 2000 who meet in a tent next to the bombed out church building.   We swore we could still smell the ashes of the burned books in the library. Everyone is looking forward to the reconstruction of the church as they prepare to rebuild in the next few months (drawings of the     plans are posted on the walls). We also visited another damaged church and spoke with the two pastors.  They are holding the congregation together but have no idea when their building will be repaired.  This apparently is the norm for many of the destroyed churches. Check out  http://www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis/action.html to see how to join a workcamp to rebuild churches in Nigeria.

Pictures by Hills, Kendra Harbeck and Sarah Rae Parcell

Devotions (EYN Daily Link) December 6 – 12, 2015

DAILY LINK WITH GOD 2015

EYN Devotions graphicA 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 December 6 – 12, 2015

The Splendor that is Here

2015 COVER

Haggai 2:1-9

I thought, I have time to take a look around town before my meetings in the morning.

The dropping dusk light makes long, ominous shadows of the unfamiliar city. On the corner is an older homeless man leaning over a shopping cart. Three younger men are standing outside a thrift store, talking loudly –to me it sounds like arguing. A woman is pulling a child roughly by the arm to cross against the light and for a moment it seems like none of the drivers will stop for them. It is a town that has “fallen on hard times”. Grand houses are empty. Half the poles are vintage ornate, the other half leaning wooden poles. I wonder if it is possible to power wash a whole city.

By the time I park the car, I am beginning to think I should turn around and go back to the well-lit, strip-mall safety of my hotel. And if I was alone, I probably would. But my daughter, a toddler, is in the back pleading for the opportunity to get out of her car seat and stretch her legs. So, I’ve committed to this adventure. There is a used bookstore on the corner. In the children’s section there is a child who is probably 3 years older than my daughter. I smile at him hoping for a playmate. Instead he pushes my daughter off a chair. I redirect her attention to a wooden activity center which he promptly grabs away from us. His mother looks up and then away. Each time I take a book from the shelf, read the first page or two, he takes it. My frustrated daughter is crying and I think I might too.

The next morning, I awake to snow. Exiting the highway, I find myself back in the tight blocks of downtown. It is as unfamiliar as it was last night, but the flurrying snow settles like frosting on the trim of buildings, over cars, and even on my own eyelashes. At Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren, three different people smile and point me towards the front door.

A man in a paint splattered sweatshirt, gives me a ticket, You get a meal with this.

Musicians are warming up for worship.

A woman, with a little girl of her own, says, There is a children’s room.

Her child smiles at my daughter, who smiles back and waves. The sanctuary is warm and the crisp morning light filters through the windows. People are easy with one another and with me. That they have never seen me before does not give anyone pause. I am welcomed without fanfare or expectation. We are all equal in our need to be in this holy place. I am suddenly humbled, realizing that I have come to this place from my own “hard times” –that I am weary and hungry too. Mostly, I am too busy to admit my urgent needs, my grimy moments, and my run-down places. As the praise hymn starts, my heart rises with the voices around me, exalted with hope and faith. The scales have fallen from my eyes: The morning, the people around me, and this place are splendidly, wonderfully made.

Question:
Do you feel like you have fallen on hard times? Do you long to return to what was – the more glorious times of the past? Are you ready to see the splendor of the moment?

Prayer:
Dear God,
You know my moment – it’s darkness and dirt. That I am tired from travel, hungry for home. But in the midst of this journey, I am reminded I am standing on holy ground. That You are with me, in me, and around me. May I view others with the compassion and love that You view me.  Amen.

 ~ Gimbiya Kettering, Intercultural Ministries Director of the Church of the Brethren

Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren, the church described above, is hosting the 2015 Intercultural Retreat, All God’s People Say Amen, May 1-3. For more information and to register, please visit:
http://www.brethren.org/intercultural/godspeople2015/

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Lent Devotional written by Craig H. Smith, district executive for the Atlantic Northeast District of the Church of the Brethren and ordained minister. (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, Craig’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Crushed bones

2015 COVER


Psalm 51:7-12

Question:
How can we ensure that confession and forgiveness remain at the center of our Christian experience? What should be the marks of a community genuinely forgiven and loved by God? What are ways your congregation can increase those marks?


Prayer:
Gracious God, how great is your faithfulness. Forgive us, Holy One, according to your mercy. You show us that we are infinitely precious. You come to heal us and bring hope for change. Amen.

~ Stan Dueck, Director, Transforming Practices

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Lent Devotional written by Craig H. Smith, district executive for the Atlantic Northeast District of the Church of the Brethren and ordained minister. (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, Craig’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

EYN Devotions February 1-7, 2015

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

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

EYN Devotion Blog Feb 1-7, 2015

Last word and testament

AWAKE_ADVENT_4


Luke 6:27-31

Question for reflection:

Where do you see conflict in your life today? What would a loving response look like?


Prayer for the day:

God, enemies are real. Help me to respond with an honest and grace-filled love to those who injure me. Show me when I make others into the enemy, and turn my violence and resentment into patient perseverance. Let Christ-like love penetrate the world through me. 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 Sandy Bosserman, a former district executive and an 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.

Knowing the Lord

Not seeing today’s post? Hit the “refresh” button on your browser.
AWAKE_ADVENT_4
Hosea 6:1-6

v.6:  For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
  the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings.

Question for reflection:
1 John 3:18 “This is how we know that we belong  to the truth….”
3:24 “And this is how we know that he lives in us..”
4:7 “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
4:16 “… we know and rely on the love God has for us”

If we follow the dots and pick out just the “know” passages from the book of 1 John, we can piece together a foundation rooted in knowledge and very much, the love of God.
Where have you seen people who know and rely on God’s love?

Prayer for the day
Heavenly Father, thank you for the season, the reminder that you extended your love among us by sending your Son – that we might live through him. Help us develop the faith to know and rely on that love.  And as we deepen in that knowledge allow us to turn this into our own visible love, that would be evident in a dark world. With gratitude for your amazing gift, I pray. Amen

~ Randi Rowan, Program Assistant, 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 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.

Speaking the language of Camp Koinonia

Youth Peace Travel Team at Camp Koinonia

Three quarters of the 2014 Youth Peace Travel Team at Camp Koinonia

“In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God.”
-1 Corinthians 7:24

This verse has been an encouraging reminder in my life that God meets us wherever we are. Even in my lowest of low times, God is willing to walk (and struggle) with me back up the mountain. I don’t have to raise myself up to a heavenly ideal in order to follow Christ or receive God’s love. If I can find peace with myself and my current condition, then I can spread peace to others.

This is the verse that immediately came to mind when I thought about the YPTT’s week at Camp Koinonia August 10-16. As this was a camp more diverse and free-flowing than we had experienced all summer (by far), I found myself honestly frustrated at the beginning of the week. I didn’t know how to harness the campers’ energy (we’re talkin’ kids doing backflips at Sunday night’s campfire) or how our team would fit into the loose schedule of the week. From lax rules about technology usage to a propane-based campfire each night, there were many differences to our typical routine that sure proved to be a challenge for us as we thought about how to interact with and teach our new friends. As exhaustion wore on me, I let these differences overwhelm me at first.

But then this verse came to mind. I realized that if we were going to make an impact and have a relatively worry-free week, we would need to learn to speak the language of Camp Koinonia. So, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and did just that. On Wednesday night before campfire, I spent about 15 extra minutes hanging out with the campers, where the informal activity of the night happened to be a dance party. I let them teach me their favorite moves and joined right in. At this point, I felt like I connected with the kids and earned some mutual respect (and had too much fun in the process). After that, I joined Melen and her iPhone, and together we laughed at satirical Instagram pictures of her favorite musician. While this definitely wasn’t a normal camp activity I was used to, it was a moment that we shared. I found that there was so much more power and joy in joining campers in their fun rather than trying to chastise them and make them fit a mold of what I saw as “good camp fun”. Once we joined the campers at their level, we were much better able to teach from a place of understanding and respect. From hikes through train tunnels to singing Smashmouth at campfire, the consistent unexpectedness of Camp Koinonia shenanigans turned out to be highly rewarding.

-Shelley

Child drawing the words "No violence" at Camp Koinonia

“Use words – No violence”: Activity at Camp Koinonia

As Shelley described, the diversity of Camp Koinonia was spectacular. From small town kids two miles down the road to those from inner-city Seattle, we got to experience campers from all ethnicities and walks of life. Venturing to a majestic waterfall and natural water slide was a highlight for me. Getting to talk extensively with campers on the hike to get there, swimming in that exhilarating glacier runoff, and soaking up the Washington state atmosphere were all entirely awesome. The last night, I was asked to counsel the older girls’ cabin because their counselor was leaving and I had created some strong bonds with them. We had a 300+ balloon late night water balloon free-for-all, got serenaded by the boys’ cabin, and stayed up until past 3am talking about our feelings, struggles, fears, desires, and lives. Although our sleep stores were depleted, our hearts were filled with care for one another and the peace of Christ was tangible in the bond of trust we created with each other. I know my relationship with these campers will live on and that both my impact on them as well as their impact on me will never dissipate. This week perfectly ended a summer that has pushed me insanely hard to better follow God’s call for my life and to journey with the hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people I’ve come into contact with as they strive to follow theirs. Thanks be to God!

-Christy

Like many of the camps we visited this summer, Camp Koinonia was full of beautiful opportunities for pictures. The venue of Franklin Falls provided me with one of the most thought provoking sights I’ve had all summer. Off to the left of the main fall is a small trickle of water coming down onto a hillside covered in rocks. Mind you these rocks, while more closely resembling a backpack than a boulder, were placed in a way that didn’t make your footing entirely guaranteed (oh and did I mention that they were mostly wet with the fall runoff). Regardless of how stupid of an idea it was, Chris and I both found ourselves climbing this moderately steep potential rockslide about 5 minutes offset of each other. I had arrived to the other side of the falls via swimming, Chris through bouldering a rock face. Either way, we both climbed up to a bit of a cliff near the top of the rocks. We sat there for a moment looking down at the pool at the base of the falls and at all the people far below. At this moment I had the realization of A) just how far we had climbed and B) just how huge this waterfall was! The people down below were so much smaller from all the way up there. The only thought that my brain could then process was “How amazing is our God?” Throughout this summer I’ve had the chance to meet countless faces, both young and old. People have impacted my life in huge ways. Yet these people are so small, just like those below me at the waterfall. To think that God has created so many amazing people that can impact my life and to understand that I’m that person to some people too, was humbling to say the least. The impacts I’ve made this summer and that this summer has made on me amaze me – not because of their severity, but because they have been made by people so small yet so big. I’m thankful for this opportunity I’ve had. Blessings to all who read this. Just remember that from boulders to pebbles, all of us can make ripples.

-Jake

A quote that has quieted my mind during turbulent times was pertinent to Camp Koinonia. Norman Maclean writes in his novella A River Runs Through It, “Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved on who is in need and ask the same question: we are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them- we can love completely without complete understanding”. The group of campers at Camp Koinonia were an eclectic rowdy bunch and so connecting with them for me, I expected to be something that needed to be worked at. I needed to ask them about their upbringing, struggles, and influences. I needed to put extra effort to get to know them. I needed to be more attentive to how I worded my statements. I needed, I needed, I needed. I never stopped to ask what the campers needed. What they needed was unconditional love and the place to explore themselves and at Camp Koinonia they found that. The camp allowed them to be themselves in a lot of ways we had not seen at previous camps: phones were used extensively, meals were left at whim, and attention was given sporadically. At times it was a struggle to know if they cared about what was happening around them and I struggled with fitting in. But the more I let go and allowed myself to go with the campers flow rather than fight the current, the more I was accepted and let in. Letting others take control, even campers, is not always a bad idea. Activities or camp may not happen the way we want it, but it will happen in the terms that matter to the larger audience: the campers. Camp Koinonia was about the campers, and I appreciated how they owned that. I loved them all without ever understanding.

-Chris

As this was the 2014 YP-double-T’s last week in action, we’d like to thank you all as we sign off. We have immense appreciation for all those who have faithfully supported our adventures throughout these 12 life changing weeks. Our peacemaking efforts will not cease, but will rather be transformed as we have gathered a new community of young earth-shakers to join us. As the invitation to peace is always extended to you, allow us to leave you with “A Franciscan Blessing”, which “Uncle” Josh Brockway left with us seven wonderful weeks ago:

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may wish for justice, freedom, and peace. May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.

-Yours truly, the 2014 YP-double-T

Three ways to help your leaders be healthier

  1. Pay for a gym membership or other recreational equipment that they enjoy
  2. Rather than meeting for lunch, invite them to walk and talk
  3. Laugh a lot together

The May issue of Basin & Towel magazine is all about the idea of calling, which includes caring for and sustaining those who have answered their call. How do you support your pastor and other church leaders? What would you add to this list and previous posts?

Supporting Leaders: Emotional Support

  1. Send notes, emails and calls of appreciation
  2. Keep an eye out for opportunities to offer random acts of kindness and support to the pastor and other leaders: an impromptu meal delivered, the lawn mowed, car washed, etc.
  3. Provide free childcare for a night out. Go a step further and give them gift cards for dinner and a movie
  4. Evaluate and learn from mistakes; don’t use them to attack one another

The May issue of Basin & Towel magazine is all about the idea of calling, which includes caring for and sustaining those who have answered their call. How do you support your pastor and other church leaders? What would you add to this list and previous posts?