Another successful work camp

Welcome to a Nigeria Workcamp by Peggy Gish

August/September workcamp

“Aiki! Aik! Aiki!” men called out from time to time, “Work! work! work! (in Hausa). Under a hot sun, a continuous line of men carried cement blocks up a wooden ramp with nailed on rungs, to the second floor of what will be a new office building for the EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)  staff, at the church headquarters in Kwarhi, in Adamawa State.  On the second floor, groups of men mixed up mortar, and lay block to form the walls and doorways of the new building.

This was the first week of a two-week workcamp (August 17-September 3) co-sponsored by EYN and the Church of the Brethren.  About 17-20 Nigerian men came each week from churches to help with the building. Three of us, Johnathan Ogburn, Dana McNeil, and Peggy Gish, representing the Church of the Brethren in the U.S., joined in and were warmly welcomed.

Working together

The construction of this building was started in 2014, before Boko Haram looted and damaged the staff buildings.  Because the EYN staff and other people from the area fled and temporarily based its headquarters in Jos, the construction stopped.  This is the second workcamp to work on this building since the EYN staff returned in 2016.

When asked why they came to the workcamp, the men, who left their jobs at home to work here, gave answers such as the following:  “This is a way I can serve God.”  “When people drive by, I want them to see a church whose headquarters show the dedication and support of its people.”  “After Boko Haram’s attempt to destroy the church, we want to rebuild and make it strong.”

Peggy and children carrying sand and cement

The camaraderie and festive mood of the group attracted a number of boys and girls—children of EYN staff and others living near the compound—who joined in the work. They filled metal dishpans with sand and carrying them up to the second floor to be mixed with concrete.  Two of the older boys proudly found that they could carry on their heads or shoulders half blocks. There would be moments, however, when the children or adults erupted into play.  Suddenly the children would be flying paper airplanes around the site or playing impromptu games.

As the time went on, there were more playful moments among the men—joking around, working to music, or tossing plastic water bags to or at each other that burst. During a break young men spontaneously formed a percussion band and sang together.  Another time the words in Hausa to “Holy, holy, holy” or “Count Your Blessings” could be heard through the building as they worked.

Long after the participants go home, we expect the impact of this workcamp to extend beyond the almost 5,000 cement blocks that had been trucked in and mortared in place. Forged together in these two weeks will be the ongoing friendships across tribes and cultures, and increased dedication to and joy of serving their church.  The work here will not only strengthen EYN as a church, but stand as a symbol of hope—as out of the crisis it rebuilds and is renewed.

Communicating God’s love

Deanna (front right) with
workcampers in Knoxville, Tenn.
Photo courtesy of Deanna Beckner

By Deanna Beckner, assistant workcamp coordinator

The way we communicate is extremely important. For example: do you know why you can only “ran” in a campground? This is because it’s past tents (past tense). As exemplified by this joke, language is complex and can be understood or misunderstood.

Think about the importance of talking with each other. If we say one thing but mean another, or say something but do the opposite, our message will be very confusing. There is a game where you sometimes have to do what the “leader” says but say the opposite, and other times say what the “leader” says but do the opposite. This makes for a challenging, fun game, but would not be fun in real life.

Reference.com shares three reasons to communicate: “to make or maintain relationships, to share or receive information, and to persuade.” With this in mind, how does God want us to communicate with one other?

Romans 12:14-19 says, “Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down…. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody…. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. ‘I’ll do the judging,’ says God. ‘I’ll take care of it’” (The Message).

Wow! This is quite a challenge. Get along with everybody? Yes, this even means a person you don’t agree with, a friend you’ve stopped talking to, or a family member with whom you have argued in the past.

And what do our actions communicate to others? What forms of entertainment (video games, TV, books, etc.) receive the best of our time and energy? Are we respectful of other people’s time? Do our actions reflect that God is important in our lives and that we love our neighbors? It’s not easy to change our priorities, but it’s not impossible.

The biblical story of Ruth offers us some inspiration. She embodied loyal love. Let’s review the story together.

Act 1: Family trip for food. Father Elimelech, mother Naomi, and sons Mahlon and Killion travel from Bethlehem to Moab to escape a famine, and Elimelech dies.

Act 2: Two marriages and funerals. Mahlon and Killion marry Orpah and Ruth, and after a decade, both sons die. This leaves Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth together as widows.

Act 3: Homeward bound. Naomi prepares to return to Bethlehem once the famine is over. Bitter about the death of her husband and sons, Naomi encourages Orpah and Ruth to return to their own families, but they both choose to stay with her. Naomi explains that she can’t bear sons for them to wait to wed and insists that they leave her. The three women cry together, Orpah departs, but Ruth clings tightly to Naomi.

Ruth pleads with Naomi: “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” (Ruth 1:16).

Act 4: Resolution. Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem. Ruth supports Naomi in a time of need, and later Ruth marries Boaz to continue the family line—the lineage that leads to Jesus.

When we reflect God’s character through our interactions with others, we bring glory to God. Ruth’s sacrifice and hard work to provide for Naomi reflected God’s love.

Like Ruth, God can use us to touch the lives of others. Are you allowing God to use you to share love? Our words and actions can reveal to others that “you count, and everyone counts.” How can you reveal that every person matters? Answering this question will allow you to communicate God’s love in a way that others will understand.

Deanna Beckner and Shelley Weachter are the 2017 assistant workcamp coordinators. A great way to communicate God’s love this summer is by participating in a workcamp or inviting someone to sign up. Register or learn more today at www.brethren.org/workcamps.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Workcamp Reflections

Carol at the workcamp

Carol at the workcamp (photo by Pat Krabacher)

by Carol Goss (participant in the January Workcamp in Nigeria)

When I read in the Messenger about Nigerian Workcamps, I knew I wanted to go. As a child I became enamored with Nigeria when my pastor Bob Bowman and his young family left to serve in Nigeria. And then along with many others, my heart went out to the EYN brothers and sisters in their ongoing crisis. But when I read, hard physical labor in a hot climate, I knew that was my  calling.

Scaffolding at the new church (by Carol Goss)

Scaffolding at the new church (by Carol Goss)

And so, 9 of us from the US melded together in our desire to serve. The hard work was present as cinder blocks and pans of concrete passed from ground level up the scaffolding, and the tall gabled ends of the church were completed. But as we were often reminded, it was the relationships that became the most significant experiences.

Sign advertising the new church at Pegi, where many from Chibok have resettled. (photo from Pat Krabacher)

Sign advertising the new church at Pegi, where many from Chibok have resettled (photo from Pat Krabacher)

Here are 4 reflections on my experience:

  1. We went to visit our first IDP, Internally Displaced Persons, camp, children excitedly ran behind our van. As we descended, the children eagerly gathered around us, thirsty for our attention.
Children at the IDP camp (by Carol Goss)

Children at the IDP camp (by Carol Goss)

No toys or planned activities were seen on the site. We were shown a small tin roof school with a few desks. We crowded inside. There was not enough room for all to sit. But the saddest part, there was no longer a teacher at the camp.

Some of our Workcampers visited the adults in their dwellings. I stayed with the children. I started throwing a frisbee but couldn’t get across the concept of forming a large circle. All wanted to be close to me and the frisbee. Soon we broke into groups and the older boys took the frisbee. I began tossing a ball with some others when a noticed a group of toddlers and shy older kids standing alone. I started singing children’s songs with them. The words were primarily sung by me in English, but the motions were shared by everyone.  It was hard to say goodbye to these children.

  1. One day during a break in the physical labor, I began singing songs with the children
    Happy children learning songs (by Carol Goss)

    Happy children learning songs (by Carol Goss)

    close by. To my surprise, it was the mothers, with varying degrees of English, who were anxious to learn the songs. They wanted to sing them with their children and teach them at children’s church activities. We shared many songs.

  2. My repertoire of children’s songs were called upon another day as a group of mothers and children sat under the canopy. After singing many of our songs, we asked the women to teach us one of their songs. We learned it in Hausa and English. “I must go with Jesus anywhere. No matter the roughness of the road. I must go. I must go!” Literally and figuratively, these women have traveled many a rough road.
  1. On our last Sunday, we traveled the hour to worship with our new friends in Pegi.  Sitting within the newly completed block walls with the roof overtop, we unified our voices. Choirs sang and praises were expressed. As I sat, I silently prayed that I could be particularly aware of God in our midst.
Carol and Mary during the last worship service. (photo from Carol Goss)

Carol and Mary during the last worship service. (photo from Carol Goss)

Before long, a young child came and stood near me. I had not seen this child before and wasn’t sure if the child was a boy or girl. Later I learned her name was Mary. There she stood, looking at me. I asked if she wanted to sit on my lap. She did. I retrieved two granola bars I had with me. She ate those as well as finished my water. I put my arms around her and she pulled them tighter. We finished the service                                                                                                 sitting in God’s presence.

Being the church

David Steele speaking with the group at the Atlantic Northeast District Listening Session. Photo by Glenn Riegel

David Steele speaking with the group at the
Atlantic Northeast District Listening Session.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

By David Steele, general secretary

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope”(Romans 15:13).

My first 100 days as general secretary have come and gone. These first weeks have been exhilarating, challenging, and joy-filled. Assessment, questions, review of past board and committee minutes, and many meetings have filled my days. What has been and will continue to be central in my work and ministry has been listening—listening to staff and you, the church. From the hallways and meeting rooms of the General Offices and Brethren Service Center to the listening sessions being held across the denomination, I am learning much. I count it a privilege to meet with you to hear your hopes, passions, and concerns, and I look forward to many more listening opportunities as I continue to schedule listening sessions in other districts.

What am I learning from your sharing? We are passionate about the Church of the Brethren and our common ministries of service, mission, discipleship, and evangelism. Yet, we are also distracted by dwindling numbers and whether we will split over our diverging or opposite views related to human sexuality and same-gender marriage. Many of your hopes have been centered in a desire for unity, reconciliation, and focusing on what unites us. Much of your sharing can be taken at face value; however, for some our desire for unity and staying together are tied to certain outcomes.

The issues we face as a church will not go away. Let’s not kid ourselves. Given our diversity, there is no decision that we can make about a social issue that will satisfy all of us. And when we do make a decision about a social issue, it will likely be replaced by another, and another, and another.

Being the church is messy. It always has been. I have always appreciated the diversity of the church and the opportunities and challenges such diversity offers. In 1 Corinthians 12:12 we read, “The body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body.” Each part of the body is essential and cannot be denied its place in the body. “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (12:18).

I believe we must work together as one body—the body of Christ—to attend to the issues before us and those that we will face in the future. Our rich diversity provides us the ability to speak to a very complex and diverse world and model another way of living—the way of Jesus. Our working together, despite our differences, is not a denial of our convictions, but an acknowledgment of our conviction that Jesus is central in our lives and that we are part of one body in Christ. Sure, it is easier to seek out and gather with those who think and believe like us, but where would be our sense of smell, sight, ability to walk, to touch? As one dear brother said in one of the listening sessions, “I need those of you calling me to purity equally as much as I need those calling me to grace and compassion.”

As we step into this new year, I am committed to our common struggle together as the body of Christ. In the midst of distractions, it has been most exhilarating in my first 100 days to experience firsthand the tireless efforts of staff and leaders to be the church. Mission work around the globe, disaster response ministries, workcamps for youth, discipleship ministries and working with congregations in efforts of vitality and evangelism, intercultural ministries, church planting coaching and support, and planning for Christian Citizenship Seminar, Young Adult Conference, and Inspiration 2017 (National Older Adult Conference)and the list could go on.

We are called to another way of living, a way that looks much different from the world around us. I invite you to support and join in our mission and ministry—to be the church. Being the church is where our body finds its unity and strength through Jesus.

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

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Accomplishments in 2016

2016 Nigeria Crisis Summary  (Total $1,525,082)

Thank you to everyone who supported the Nigeria Crisis work in 2016. It is amazing to see what we have accomplished together. May God continue to work among us.

317 818 853 903 1220 eyn-food-distribution2

Home Repair and Rebuilding                                                                                             30 new units with kitchens and toilets                                                                                       Provided Water sources and 2 solar powered pumps                                                          260 homes re-roofed (4 zones)

Peace Building and Trauma Recovery                                                                            18 basic workshops                                                                                                                 3 advanced workshops                                                                                                             3 Training of Trainer                                                                                                                 Leaders sent to Rwanda for Alternatives to Violence Program                                               2 Healing and Rebuilding our Community Workshops (Maiduguri and Damaturu)                 Training for 14 women’s leaders by Children’s Disaster Service USA                                     10 Children’s Trauma  Training workshops (155 trained)

Agriculture & Community Development                                                                             6 leaders attended ECHO conference                                                                                     5 leaders attended a soybean innovation lab                                                                           Goat trial project started for 10 workers                                                                     Vaccinations for 10,000 chickens                                                                                            Seeds and fertilizer to 8500 families

Livelihoods                                                                                                                            2 women’s projects for 200 widows & orphans                                                                        Empowered 587 families to established their own businesses                                               3 Skills Acquisition Centers provided training and businesses for 152 widows &                   orphans

Education                                                                                                                           Kulp Bible College renovations/repairs                                                             Comprehensive Secondary School wall built for security                                               School fees paid for 420 students                                                                                       120 orphans housed, fed and school provided                                                                       3 Learning centers providing schooling for 2,180 students

Food, Medical & Home Supplies                                                                                      35 distributions to 12,500 families                                                                                  Medical assistance at 19 locations serving 5000                                                           Medical refresher course held for 16 dispensary workers

EYN Strengthening                                                                                                         Unity house in Jos furnished                                                                                           Kwarhi staff housing and offices repaired                                                                      Conference center repaired                                                                                              Conference assistance for Majalisa, Peace conference for pastors, Minister’s conference, Devotional materials printed                                                                                             Hosted 42 US visitors during the year                                                                                     Joint Workcamp – EYN and 9 US volunteers began building a church for IDP’s

Mutuality in mission

Debbie Eisenbise leading a workshop at the  2016 New Church Planting Conference.  Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Debbie Eisenbise leading a workshop at the
2016 New Church Planting Conference.
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

By Debbie Eisenbise, director of Intergenerational Ministries

Someone recently asked me what I believe it means to be Brethren. Thinking back, I realized that it was a simple phrase that convinced me to join the church. I didn’t grow up in the Church of the Brethren. I grew up going to church, studied religion in college, and then became acquainted with the denomination through Brethren Volunteer Service. There, I first heard the phrase, “mutuality in mission.”

Mission philosophies come and go, and we may not talk about our engagement with the world this way anymore. However, what struck me at the time (and still does) was not the words themselves but how they are embodied in our church. We are people who put faith into action, and do so with others. We look for ways to work with others, to engage in community efforts, and to be of service where needs have been identified by local groups. We listen to others. We make decisions together.

Mutuality in mission requires us to respond to the needs of people in the church and in the world, and to work alongside others for the good of all. It is faith in action. Before I met the Brethren, I thought faith was a private thing, a way of believing that helped each person maintain a particular perspective on life. Now I know that, while faith is personal, it is not private, and the gifts of faith that each of us possess are to be used for the common good.

Before I came into the Church of the Brethren, I had never participated in feetwashing. Although I was familiar with the Bible, I’m not sure that scripture (John 13) made much of an impact on me. In the Church of the Brethren, I was surprised to find that this scripture was not only frequently cited but also enacted. It wasn’t just a story about Jesus and his disciples at that last supper. These were also instructions for us today. Jesus tells us: “I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). As Brethren, we take this quite literally, and not just in worship. Mutuality in mission means that we serve others, and, acknowledging our own vulnerability, allow others to serve us in return. Indeed, faith in action is relational. We give and receive. Together we share God’s love and build community.

I saw this happening at various denominational conferences I attended in May. At the New Church Planting Conference, Brethren brothers and sisters of various races and cultures came together to pray for each other’s ministries. At the Church of the Brethren Spiritual Directors’ retreat, ideas were shared about how to make spiritual direction more available to pastors to strengthen and encourage them in ministry. At the National Young Adult Conference, participants took time one afternoon to connect across generations with older adults at Timbercrest Senior Living Community.

Congregations across the country are joining the Open Roof Fellowship through intentionally ministering to and with persons of all physical, mental, and developmental abilities. Others are actively engaged in creating safe spaces for all people, particularly children and vulnerable adults, to worship, learn, fellowship, and serve together. At our conferences, in workcamps, through Brethren Volunteer Service, and in our congregations, we come together to put our faith into action, to engage in mutuality in mission. Thank you for all you do to respond to this call through prayers, gifts, worship, and service.

Learn more about the Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/clm or support them today at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Special

Workcampers in Kyle, S.D. Photo by Jennifer Coale

Workcampers in Kyle, S.D.
Photo by Jennifer Coale

By Deanna Beckner, assistant workcamp coordinator

As Rachel Berry from the hit Fox television show Glee proclaimed when she received her Tony Award, explicating a lesson she learned from her high school choir teacher Mr. Schuester, “Being a part of something special does not make you special. Something is special because you are a part of it.” That is how I see each of the participants and directors who came to Church of the Brethren workcamps this summer. Their enthusiasm, beautiful personalities, and tenacious willingness to serve in the Lord’s name coalesced at each and every workcamp as they grew as individuals and as newly-gathered communities. Workcamps provide unique opportunities, but it is the participants who come and serve who make the time together special.

Now that the workcamp season is over, I miss the workcampers every day. In looking through pictures, all of the memories of bumps in the road are juxtaposed with the fantastically fun and silly moments, the incredibly meaningful moments, and the insightful faith moments. And somehow, amidst everything that happened this summer, it is the good stuff that stands out the most.

Getting stuck in the rain after a dinner cookout but spending time getting to know one another, or playing hacky sack in the courtyard of a homeless shelter with a new friend, or playing group games that bring out the deepest laughter, or singing songs in the van together as we ride along to the evening activity—these are the moments that warm my heart, that flit through my mind as I prepare for a new year of workcamps.

I could tell you about all of the work that went into this past summer, the ways I have changed, and the many places I have traveled to, but really, I could jabber on and on about the lasting memories that I spent having fun and learning with the workcampers and directors. I feel blessed to be on this journey, to have God leading me through these workcamps, and picking me up when I make mistakes. I feel blessed to be a part of this body of believers who spend time at a workcamp to serve and to be served, to meet new friends and rekindle previous friendships, to grow in faith and to share faith with others. And because of all of this, I feel special.

Deanna Beckner served as an assistant workcamp coordinator with Amanda McLearn-Montz for the 2016 workcamp season, and will continue serving for the 2017 season with Shelley Weachter. Learn more about the Workcamp Ministry at www.brethren.org/workcamps or support it today at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

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

Amazing

Mark Flory Steury at the Church of the Brethren General Offices. Photo by Dewayne Heck

Mark Flory Steury at the Church of the Brethren General Offices.
Photo by Dewayne Heck

By Mark Flory Steury, Donor Relations representative

“It’s amazing how much the Church of the Brethren is able to do.”

This is a comment I hear often as I talk with congregational leaders and pastors about the denominational work of the Church of the Brethren. It has been my joy to visit many congregations over the past five years, and to thank them for being so generous! For well over one hundred years, congregations have faithfully supported the work of the church through their offerings.

When I visit a congregation, we talk about the ways the Church of the Brethren is currently serving in ministry both domestically and abroad. Globally we have partners in Nigeria, India, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Haiti, Spain, South Sudan and many other places. We help people in times of need through Brethren Disaster Ministries, Children’s Disaster Services, and the Global Food Initiative. Volunteers serve as the hands and feet of Jesus through Brethren Volunteer Service and Workcamps. These are some of the ways that we extend the love of God to others.

We also provide resources for churches and individuals across the country. We support the work of new churches through the Church Planting Conference. We equip church leaders and members through the work of Congregational Life Ministries, the Ministry Office, and Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leaderships, and through materials like Vital Ministry Journey, the Anabaptist Worship Exchange, the Shine curriculum, and webinars. Faith-forming, community-fostering conferences and programs are provided throughout the year like National Junior High Conference, Christian Citizenship Seminar, Ministry Summer Service, National Young Adult Conference, and National Older Adult Conference. Conversation and information are shared through Newsline and Messenger magazine. We also have wonderful historical resources preserved through the Brethren Historical Library and Archives. This is just a brief overview of the many ministries we do together!

Amazing! How is the Church of the Brethren able to do all of this? It’s only with the support of congregations and individuals who are willing to work together for a common mission and ministry.

It is remarkable how much the Church of the Brethren is able to do. Thank you so much for your awesome support. We can do this work only because of your partnership. May God bless us as we continue in our work together.

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

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Youth Peace Travel Team 2016 – Debriefing and Harrisburg workcamp

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As the summer wraps up, we had a team debriefing session before our Junior High workcamp in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. For three of us, Harrisburg was our first workcamp! It was quite an experience to simultaneously step into a directing role as a team. We had the opportunity to serve with several organizations around Harrisburg for three days before we were off to our final camp! What a joyful time.

Hello friends!

Debriefing went very well. It is so difficult to wrap up all the amazing experiences and lessons we have learned this summer in just a few conversations. But the laughs, backyard swims, and just a few days off were really nice and refreshing.

The work camp theme this year was “blazing with holiness.” The worships, devotions, and just the conversations and ideas the team had really seemed to flow well. I personally had not heard the metaphor of fire in worship in quite a while. The rhetoric I seemed to associate with that metaphor was fairly negative, but this week has turned it right upside on its head. And what a place to do it! Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren was undeniably ablaze with service. It seemed like their doors never closed, with people always in and out for all different needs. The workcampers definitely recognized it too. We discussed the kindling of their own faith. It really touched my heart how blessed we are as a team to be part of these faith journeys at such a pivotal point of growth.

It was also awesome to be in a city again! I remember in Iowa at some point saying “I need to stop somewhere and use the bathroom” and the person driving us replied, “Okay, you’ll have to wait about fifteen minutes until we get somewhere.” I grew up in a city and currently live in a different city. There is nothing quite like the hustle, bustle, and immediate diversity of cities like Harrisburg or Cincinnati. My favorite part of the week was going to an authentic taqueria. I loved supporting a family business while being reminded of my childhood. Love was abundant in this city and in all the service done here. Urban ministry is groovy! Not to mention the tambourines!!

Peace out, Kiana

Yo! We have finished another amazing week, but this time with a twist. Our experience with a junior high work camp was all-around awesome. Since the work camp started halfway through the week, we got to start our week with a few relaxing days. Once work camp started, we moved over to Harrisburg First, and began co-directing with Marie.

Working with junior high at a workcamp is a similar and yet different thing than working with them at a camp. These young leaders touched my heart through their abilities to spread joy, lift each other up, work hard, and serve selflessly. God was at work in so many ways as we moved furniture for Brethren Housing Association and worked in green spaces and city gardens. He was at work in those of us who served at local soup kitchens and resource centers, like Downtown Daily Bread and Bethesda’s Women’s Shelter. I saw Him at work when the campers learned about interpersonal communication by making coke floats-with blindfolds on. His spirit flowed in our worship with the Harrisburg First praise band, and His love connected us with the local youth group as well.

This week definitely was an amazing first work camp experience, and God’s hands and feet were all over Harrisburg last week.

Phoebe

This past week in Harrisburg was a time to gain a greater connection to the city that I had previously only known as my state’s capital. Shortly after our arrival, it became apparent that Harrisburg First Church is an exceedingly alive congregation with a perpetually active ministry. Both the tradition and the praise services, led this Sunday by the youth, were filled with energy and joy as each person there was greeted by a smile and great music! However, this week we got to really see what it means for church not just to be for Sundays. People visit the church building all week long to attend parenting classes, nonviolent conflict resolution workshops, Bible studies, fresh food distributions, and so much more.

The work project where I spent the majority of my time was building raised vegetable beds to be used by Brethren Community Ministries. We got to watch as a lot went from empty to a fully planted garden in just a couple of days and as the work camp youth stepped out of their comfort zones and began to master power tools.

It was a blessing for me to see what an urban Church of the Brethren can be and do. “Blazing with Holiness” was a perfectly fitting workcamp theme; at many points during the week, the church felt on fire! Coming from a more rural district, this week stirred me to explore many more creative and varied ways to be the Church in all of my communities.
What an inspiring week in my home state, Pennsylvania!
The workcamp in Harrisburg was my 7th workcamp, and it was really awesome to be in a leadership role for the first time! Workcamps have always been one of the highlights of my summer and have been such a large part of my faith journey. This summer was no different.

At first, the workcamp wasn’t one of the spots along the team’s travel that I was looking forward to the most because it was in such close proximity to my home However, I learned so much about myself and from the youth that the week became one of my summer highlights.

I would typically identify as a “country girl” who was raised in Lancaster County. However, going on a tour the first night of the workcamp showed me the value and pure awesomeness of growing up in a city. 1) THERE ARE SO MANY FOOD PLACES YOU CAN WALK TO, including a really awesome ice cream shop this week. 2) I’d probably know how to parallel park. 3) Urban ministry is awesome. I really enjoyed worship and Harrisburg First. The list goes on and on. Sometime in my life, I want to experience living in a city.

The workcampers that week were also truly amazing. I generally have difficulty opening up to people. However, this past week a few youth just found ways to pick on me in a loving way that meant they were comfortable with me. Also, seeing how much these youth could get done was awesome.

They were hard workers and were so efficient!

Peace, Love, and PA
Jenna