Stitched with hope and love

By Matt DeBall, coordinator of Mission Advancement Communications

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for [God] has looked with favor on the lowliness of [God’s] servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.” ~Luke 1:46b-48

Do you have a favorite blanket? Mine is a purple, gray, black, and white afghan that my wife made for me years ago, right after we started dating. I was on a mission trip at the time, and it was carefully crocheted with the hope of my safe return, and with love.

As experienced during Advent, Mary’s song is a beautiful stitch in the larger, intricate blanket of God’s story. God’s promise to bless her and to save Israel filled her with joy, and she sang a new yet familiar song, testifying to what God had done and would do.

The song of Mary echoes the sentiments of an earlier song. “Give thanks to the LORD….Sing praises to the LORD, [who] has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout aloud and sing for joy… for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 12:4-6). Mary and Isaiah both offered praise to God for past faithfulness, current presence, and future promise. Their eyes could not behold the fulfillment of God’s promises, but through faith, their hearts perceived God’s work as already complete. Their words are great for us to read (and sing) now because of all that God has done, is doing, and will still do in our midst.

As we reflect on this past year, God has surely done great things among us. Youth and advisors gathered at National Youth Conference to be challenged in their walk of faith. Church planters and others gathered at the New and Renew Conference for professional development and encouragement for the work of nurturing new disciples. Josiah and Christine Ludwick and their children began a year of service in Rwanda to preach, teach, and demonstrate a Brethren way of living. Brethren in Spain continued to add new congregations and expanded their membership. In Nigeria, Global Mission executive Jay Wittmeyer was present at the commissioning of a new EYN congregation at the Gurku Interfaith Camp for displaced people.  These are just a few examples of how your gifts helped add to our larger community blanket in 2018.

As you reach for your favorite blanket this winter season, please sing a song of thanksgiving for all that God has done through the Church of the Brethren, offer a prayer for the continued work of our ministries, and make a gift with hopeful expectation of what God will do. God surely has great things in store for us, and with God’s help and through your partnership, 2019 will be wonderfully stitched with hope and love.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Continuing the work of Jesus into 2019

By David Steele, general secretary

Greetings in the name of our Savior born for us—the Messiah, our Lord!

On behalf of our worldwide staff, volunteers, and the Mission and Ministry Board, I want to express our gratitude for the many ways you faithfully strive to live out the gospel—to simply try to do what Jesus did. The vital ministries of Church of the Brethren members and congregations, small and large, are at the heart of our denomination. Your witness is essential in our partnership as we together herald the Good News of the birth of Jesus Christ.

As we close the year, we celebrate that our Brethren witness is meaningfully extended into new places and in new ways. The Church of the Brethren is seeking to become a Global Church of the Brethren. Our growth around the world and our commitment to deeper and more meaningful relationships are helping this vision become a reality as we enter 2019.

In August, Josiah and Christine Ludwick and their children began a year of service in Rwanda to preach, teach, and demonstrate a Brethren way of living. Their appointment is vital to the efforts of establishing a peace testimony in the Great Lakes region of Africa as they host theological education and training, assist in the construction of church buildings, and deepen relationships.

In Venezuela, the Brethren witness is growing but economic turmoil has prevented the placement of mission staff at this time. Global Mission and Service staff and volunteers travel there when possible and work with Venezuelan leadership to broaden the understanding of our church’s theology and practice.

Brethren in Spain continue to add new congregations and expand their membership. Many are immigrants, but Spanish citizens are beginning to take notice and come to services.

Haitian Brethren have proved themselves faithful again this year by reaching out to the suffering when an earthquake struck in the north of the country.

In Nigeria, Global Mission executive Jay Wittmeyer was present at the commissioning of a new EYN congregation at the Gurku Interfaith Camp for displaced people. The Nigerian Brethren also commissioned their newest church district in Lagos, with EYN now numbering 55 districts. The Nigeria Crisis Response continues to bring healing and hope to thousands of families displaced by violence.

Embracing Jesus’ call to go and make disciples has been at the heart of our ministries throughout this year.

Youth and advisors gathered at National Youth Conference to be challenged in their walk of faith.

Church planters and others gathered at the New and Renew Conference for professional development and encouragement for the work of nurturing new disciples.

The Discipleship Ministries team provided resource leadership at congregational and district events, web-based learning opportunities, and collaboration with Bethany Seminary for an Urban Ministry intensive in Atlanta.

For Brethren Disaster Ministries, loss of Paradise Church of the Brethren and most of the congregation’s homes ended an intense year of responding to disasters—including a rebuilding project in North Carolina that closed during Hurricane Florence but quickly reopened to help people affected by Hurricane Matthew. In Puerto Rico, our disaster response expanded into the mountains around Castañer, where a long-term home rebuilding project will continue through next year.

Children’s Disaster Services supported families affected by floods, hurricanes, volcanoes, shootings, and the Camp Fire that burned Paradise.

Together, we have shared hope and God’s love. God has enabled us to extend Christ’s mission, serving those in need both near and far, growing disciples, calling and developing leaders, and transforming communities.  Thank you for your partnership, your generous support, and your prayers. May we together continue the work of Jesus.

Learn more about the ministries of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org or support them today at www.brethren.org/give.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Blooming in Rwanda

The Ludwick family, mission workers in Rwanda.

By Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service

My flower garden in full bloom is a wonderful sight to see this time of year. The days are hot but the evenings are cooler, and each night dew forms on flower petals. When dawn breaks, bumblebees bounce about, as do hummingbirds, and the morning breeze blows through the garden. The droplets of dew on each plant roll off, falling to the ground and gently watering the roots of neighboring plants.

The ministry of Global Mission and Service functions in a similar fashion. As mission workers and international leaders care for their communities, they also receive care and encouragement. It is just as the Apostle Paul wrote when he hoped to visit the believers in Rome that they “might mutually encourage one another” (Romans 1:12).

Just a few weeks ago, the Ludwicks packed their bags and caught an Ethiopian Airlines flight to Kigali, Rwanda. This small family from the Harrisburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren committed to serve as mission workers for a year with a newly established Brethren church community in western Rwanda. Their ministry will include many things, but first and foremost they will be led to new levels of trust—in God, their new Brethren community in Rwanda, and their home congregation.

The Church of the Brethren is just getting started in Rwanda. There are currently four small congregations: one in the city of Gisenyi and three in rural areas where a significant number of members attend from Batwa Pygmy community, the indigenous inhabitants of the equatorial forests of the Great Lakes Region of Africa. The Rwandan Brethren have a deep desire to reach out to this marginalized community and have even started a Batwa Pygmy choir.

For Christine and Josiah Ludwick, moving their children, Asher and Rachel, to a new country in the heart of Africa required much faith in Jesus. As they serve, they are also trusting that God, who called their family in this new direction, will supply all their needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

The charge we have given the Ludwicks is simple but profoundly meaningful: be present, build relationships, and be mutually encouraged by the Brethren in Rwanda. Since Christine is a nurse practitioner and Josiah is a youth minister and skilled musician, they will teach, provide medical care, sing, and serve. In return, the Rwanda Brethren will teach the Ludwicks to function in a society that they do not know. This includes finding housing and transportation, teaching them how to shop and cook, sharing advice, and providing support all along the way. The transition will be difficult, and the Ludwicks will surely have many questions, but their new Brethren community will bear with their newness and guide them into meaningful ministry. Together, they will offer the gospel of peace to those they encounter—something that is greatly needed in Rwanda at this time.

In addition to trusting in God and their new Brethren family in Rwanda, the Ludwicks are also trusting in their home congregation and in all of us of the Church of the Brethren in the United States. They are in great need of our prayers, encouragement, and financial support. Through your gifts to Global Mission and Service, the Ludwicks and other mission workers can continue to serve where God has called them.

As the Ludwicks and Rwandan Brethren serve in ministry together, they will mutually encourage one another and water the growth that is already started. Through trusting in God and one another, the blossoming ministry in Rwanda will become an ever more wonderful sight to see.

Learn more about Global Mission and Service at www.brethren.org/global or support its ministry at www.brethren.org/givegms.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)