Stories from Maiduguri

While in Maiduguri recently, Carl and Roxane Hill visited various Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps, drove through the city, toured the largest EYN church and interviewed a peace activist. Here are some pictures and stories.

Markus Gamache introduced us to Gambo Muhammed in Maiduguri. He is a young man with a passion to see peace restored to his home in northeast Nigeria’s largest city. Maiduguri is infamously known as the birthplace of Boko Haram. Over the last ten years, these extremists have killed thousands of innocent Nigerians and chased millions more from their traditional homelands.

Gambo is associated with a group of youths in Maiduguri that are seeking peace. He is a tireless advocate of peace, representing the people in his city who are tired of the violence and want to live a normal life again. He told us that many people, both Christian and Muslim have grown tired of the killing and fear that has gripped his city and the surrounding countryside. The city of Maiduguri has become a haven for displaced people. Before the insurgency, Maiduguri’s population was somewhere around 2 million. But because of the danger outside the city – from Lake Chad in the north to the Cameroon boarder in the east to the Sambisa Forrest to the west and Madagali in the south, 7 million people now make Maiduguri their home.

Gambo made himself known in his city in 2015. He was invited to speak at the Swiss Embassy before numerous dignitaries and ambassadors. His topic was, “How to end the crisis with Boko Haram.” He challenged those present and demonstrated his passion to see peace restored to the area.

He listed some of the steps he advocated at this influential meeting. Number one was to restore trust between the security forces and the citizens of Maiduguri. This could be accomplished, he said, by creating humanitarian relief for countless people struggling to survive in Maiduguri. He suggested that the bad elements that had infiltrated the camps throughout the city be eliminated.

Number two was to provide skills acquisition training for the displaced and the youth of the city. This sounds basic but for people who know nothing but subsistence farming, acquiring an alternate skill to support themselves and their family is a huge step.

Number three, according to this energetic Muslim, was to take steps to curb drug abuse in the youth population. It was through the use of drugs that Boko Haram had attracted many young men to come into the ranks of the extremist cult of Boko Haram. The breakdown of opportunities for young people and the allure of drugs served as the main recruiting tool for Boko Haram membership. Gambo told me of the frustration that led many of his friends to follow Boko Haram’s leaders down the path of personal destruction.

Gambo, wise beyond his years, chose the alternative path of peace. What a breath of fresh air he was to us when we encountered him in the bustling, crowded city of Maiduguri, Nigeria.  

3 Stories of Escape from the Boko Harm

Ladi, Charity and Safiratu are three strong young women. They were taken captive by the Boko Haram sometime in 2014. These women along with many other men and children have been kept in villages around Ngoshe and Gwoza where the Boko Haram still controls the area. (Many remain in captivity.)

The conditions under captivity are terrible; food scarcity, forced labor, forced marriage, mistreatment, and forced Islamization. But somehow each of these three women survived and had the courage to attempt an escape from this horrific captivity. Even more amazing is the fact that these women did not lose their faith in Jesus Christ. The women were forced to dress in Muslim attire wearing a hajib in public and they were forced to participate in the daily Muslim prayers. However, in private they prayed to their God and worshiped Jesus in their hearts. The terrible conditions, rumors of the escape of others, and their faith gave them the courage to escape. Anything would be better than the life they had as prisoners. In 2018, they each snuck away in the night and climbed down the mountain to freedom.

Here are their stories…

Ladi is a young, single woman who had her whole life ahead of her. Her future was forever changed when she was abducted by the Boko Haram. She was forced into “marriage” and had a baby by her Boko Haram husband. She escaped down the mountain with her baby and ran to her family at the Maiduguri IDP camp. Yes, she is no longer in captivity, but she faces many difficulties and wonders what will become of her. Will anyone agree to marry her; will a husband take her child as his own? Will her child always have the stigma of a Boko baby?

Charity is a young, married woman, who now has a Boko Haram child. After her escape, she went to the camp in Maiduguri to be reunited with her husband who was an IDP there. At first, her husband did not want to take her back as his wife because of her forced Boko Haram marriage. But Charity did not give up, she kept begging him to take her back; both her and her child. Finally, after some counseling, the husband, received her again as his wife. Today, the couple has been living together as husband and wife for more than a year and they have three-month-old twins.

Safiratu is another married woman who escaped from the Boko Haram with her baby and ended up at the IDP camp. She too tried to reconcile with her husband. Her story differs from Charity in that her husband would not take her back no matter how hard she tried. Since she was not welcomed by her husband; life became too difficult in the camp. With the help of others, Safiratu moved to a town near the EYN headquarters where she is supported by her brother and assisted by EYN women’s ministry. What will become of her and her child? Will there ever be reconciliation between her and her husband?

Pray for all those who have escaped from the Boko Haram and for those who remain captive.

Patience, persistence, and peacemaking

Nathan Hosler, front right, talking with community leaders
on delegation with Churches for Middle East Peace
in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Photo by Weldon Nisly of Christian Peacemaker Teams

By Nathan Hosler, director of the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy

We live in a time of great urgency. Turmoil grips our communities and the communities of our sisters and brothers around the world. This isn’t news nor is it new. However, the persistence of injustice is not a reason to despair but to recognize that our calling to be peacemakers is all the more essential.

I grew up in Chiques Church of the Brethren in Manheim, Pa., and my grandfather and his brothers were conscientious objectors. I grew up believing that to follow Jesus meant serving others and being against war. In college, as my vocational call to ministry took shape, I realized that, even beyond opposing war, I needed to work for peace. Through experiences of tutoring Somali refugees in English and building relationships with homeless people on the streets of Chicago and Baltimore, I learned about systemic violence and racism. Through this education, the call to peacemaking began to sprout. 

In Washington, D.C., “peacemaking” is an odd word. Even for organizations whose work would be considered peacemaking, the term is unusual. “Peacebuilding” is much more common, and while I use the terms interchangeably, peacemaking comes from the biblical text, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

In Luke’s gospel, the prophecy of Zechariah proclaims the coming of Christ our savior and how we will continue his mission: “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).

Guide our feet into the way of peace. We know that the awaited Jesus became the teacher who declared that peacemakers are the children of God and said, “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). This Lord guides our feet into the way of peace.

The peace of Christ cannot be forced. We cannot impose a peace that is both global and personal, of inward reconciliation and outward wellbeing, and that brings reconciliation with God and neighbor and even our enemy. We cannot—nor should we try to—force peace. We bear witness to it and proclaim it. We must struggle for it and dedicate ourselves to it. While peace is a gift of God, it is also a process built.

In The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, Mennonite Alan Kreider writes of the prominent role of patience in the writing and thinking of the early church. Specifically, he asks why is it that, with no documented focus on church expansion, the church grew in remarkable ways. He highlights the virtue of patience and trusting that God is in control, and a recurring theme of bearing witness through how one lives. Patience makes way for the freedom to do the slow work of peacemaking and not force an outcome.

This work is slow. Preaching the gospel of peace in a war-torn world is difficult. It is only through patience that we may persist in the slow and difficult work of nonviolent resistance to all oppression, injustice, and violence. We cannot impose peace but it is urgent that we work for it, train for it, prepare our youth for it, and build up institutions and organizations that add heft to our words.

Thank you for the ways you proclaim the gospel of peace and for your support of the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. Though we live in a time of great urgency and the work before us is slow, the Lord is faithful and will surely guide our feet into the way of peace.

Learn more about the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy at www.brethren.org/peacebuilding or support it today at www.brethren.org/give.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Faithful stewardship

By Matt DeBall, coordinator of Mission Advancement Communications

“The master commended the dishonest manager
because he had acted shrewdly.”
~Luke 16:8

The call to be a faithful steward can seem like a daunting task. Thankfully, the Lord Jesus not only calls us but also empowers us and equips us for the task. The parable shared in Luke 16 is one such exhortation.

As a master declared job termination and requested a final financial report, a dishonest manager threw a going-out-of-business sale—as in, he was going out of business and he cut deals with as many indebted partners as possible. Though, at first, it appeared his actions were merely for selfish gain, the manager was commended by the master for shrewdness.

This parable is interesting, to say the least, and may cause us to scratch our heads. Surely it is not an invitation to use dishonest financial practices or to fix the books. However, if a dishonest manager can be an effective example of stewardship, we can do even better. The dishonest yet shrewd manager exemplifies three important aspects of being a faithful steward.

Being generous. When the manager met with each debtor, he canceled almost a year and half worth of wages for a common laborer. How blessed each one must have felt! Many of us will never be able to give such a generous gift, but we can make a difference in the lives of people around us by giving faithfully of what we have received from God. Whenever we share, we prove to be good stewards when we do so generously.

Honoring others. As the manager canceled debts, he honored everyone involved. The debtors received generous pardons and the master was honored for being generous. To reinstate the canceled debts would harm the master’s reputation, and thus, by confirming the manager’s maneuvers, honor was maintained for all. Faithful stewardship honors others, and this also includes the Lord.

Preparing for the future. The manager was preparing to be out of a job and needing the help of others. Though our stewardship does not include consideration of selfish gain, we are called to look beyond the circumstances of today and, with God’s help, chart a course for the future. Again, this need not involve grand means or measures. It can involve doing simple but purposeful acts boldly and faithfully. Consider water:  over time, even a gentle and persistent trickle can wear away the face of a rock. Trusting God with the results, we can act simply and boldly now while working toward a future that we cannot yet see.

It’s a privilege and honor to witness all who give generously of themselves to the ministries of the Church of the Brethren—whether staff, volunteers, board members, or supporters like you. Thank you for using your gifts generously, honoring one another and the Lord. Thank you for investing what you have been given now, and preparing for the future with hope. As you practice faithful stewardship, may the Lord continue to bless you.

Support the ministries of the Church of the Brethren today at www.brethren.org/give.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Soybean Training and Field Observation

By Dennis Thompson

The Integrated Community Based Development Program’s (ICBDP) AGRIC Department coordinated and hosted a second 2019 agricultural extension methodology training program for the inaugural 15-member class of Volunteer Extension Agents (VEA) and key AGRIC Department personnel. Program activities were conducted at or near the EYN Headquarters in Kwarhi and at select field sites from Yola in the south up to Michika in the north.

Field site observational and training visits included two AGRIC soybean seed production field locations and various soybean and maize demonstrations in addition to four locations established and operated by VEAs as community-based soybean and maize AGRIC Demonstration Fields.

COB’s technical and educational resource person who provided the training was Dr. Dennis Thompson. This was his fifth NE Nigeria in-country experience supporting EYN’s Soybean Value Chain project and efforts to help redevelop NE Nigeria in the past two years. In addition, over the last three years he has coordinated and lead two experiential learning activities for EYN to Ghana related to soybean value chain work. He shared the EYN Soybean Value Chain story during an evening breakout session at the 2019 COB Annual Conference in Greensboro, NC.

Initial classroom extension methodology training was provided to VEAs by Thompson (fondly referred to as Dr. Dennis) in March 2019 being companion information and supplemental to the technical training provided by the Agric Steering Committee pertaining to soybean and maize production. The September 2019 training focused upon extension methodology (in both the classroom and fields) and the real-life experiences garnered by VEAs from the time they moved to their community assignments, established and operated demonstration fields, and trained farmers on EYN agronomic practices to produce maize and soybean.

“The soybean value chain journey, envisioned to become a catalyst for redevelopment, will be long and hard. Creation, development and support of the nascent EYB Volunteer Extension Agent program is certainly a step in the right direction”, according to Thompson. “The eagerness, dedication, enthusiasm and hopefulness exhibited in the faces and actions taken by this inaugural class of Volunteer Extension Agents is remarkable and they are being groomed as the example to be followed by other VEAs in the future” he concludes.

Celebrating the wondrous work of God

Giving Tuesday 2019
www.brethren.org/givingtuesday

By Traci Rabenstein, director of Mission Advancement

“Bless the Lord God, the God of Israel–
the only one who does wondrous things!
Bless God’s glorious name forever;
let his glory fill all the earth!
~ Psalm 72:18-19, CEB

When was the last time you noticed the “wondrous things” God has done in your life? A question that my Sunday school teacher, Fran, at Mechanicsburg Church of the Brethren would ask is, “What were your God moments this week?” Sometimes she would begin with this question, but on other occasions, it would naturally seep into our conversation or even close our time together as people reflected on how they had seen “wondrous things.” I travel often in my role as director of Mission Advancement, and during a recent trip, I noticed a “God moment.”

I like to travel by train when I work at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill.—taking the Pennsylvanian from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh and then Capital Limited into Chicago’s Union Station. The autumn season sets a beautiful stage to travel the rails. Getting into the mountainous areas of central Pennsylvania, the end of the harvest season can be observed as you pass by fields. Orange, brown, green, yellow, and red are the colors that splash this canvas. Traveling by train slows things down and offers the opportunity to reflect on what I’ve seen and experienced. Most trips include having conversations with fellow travelers—hearing their stories, sharing my own, and providing words of encouragement, grace, and peace, if it’s needed.

A few weeks ago, at the conclusion of the October meeting for Mission and Ministry Board, I boarded the train at Union Station to begin the trip back to Pennsylvania. After beginning to talk with my seatmate, we noticed peculiar behavior from the passenger in front of us. This person had been flailing about in their seat, speaking loudly with colorful language, and causing a bit of a ruckus. There was a feeling of concern for those of us who were directly around this person, a sense of uncertainty as to whether their actions should be confronted, and concern about the outcome of a confrontation. As time went on, several people in the railcar shared concerns with Amtrak personnel, who eventually confronted the passenger. The final outcome was the removal of the passenger from the train by local law enforcement.

So, where did I see the wondrous things of God in this situation? God was present through each of my railcar mates. Two people were able to remove and dispose of alcohol that the passenger had brought onto the train by approaching them and asking for a drink. Another man engaged the person in conversation to distract them from causing further alarm. In general, we all looked out for each other as the situation unfolded and worked together to make sure that everyone, including the unruly passenger, was safe until the authorities arrived to intervene.

In this present age, though our culture makes it seem much easier to throw a fist than pass the peace, I watched a group of strangers come together and work to care for one another. We were “strangers no more, but part of one humanity.” This situation gave me a renewed hope for humanity and reminded me that God is always present with us.

Where do you see the wondrous things of God in your life, in your community, or in your place of worship? The Church of the Brethren reveals “another way of living” to those we serve, one in which God’s “glory fills all the earth!” We do this through our Global Mission and Service partnerships in Venezuela, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and other countries. Another way of living is revealed through the work of our Office of Peacebuilding and Policy as staff meet in Iraqi Kurdistan with ecumenical partners and government officials to talk about active USAID projects to respond to the genocide of Yazidis, the persecution of Christians, and other vulnerable groups. Through the programs of Discipleship Ministries and the Office of Ministry, congregations and pastors are cared for and encouraged. In these ministries and more, God is doing wondrous things around us.

As we enter this season of thankfulness, joy, and giving, we invite you to consider how you will partner with us. May we celebrate the wondrous work of God among us!

This reflection was written for Giving Tuesday on December 3. Join us in celebrating—now or then—by making a gift to the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/givingtuesday.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

The fruit of our labor

Duvelis Altenor near Grand Bois, Haiti

By Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service

On behalf of the Office of Global Mission and Service, thank you for your regular support of our ministries. It is hard to believe that I have served in this office for 10 years. This milestone has given me the opportunity to closely consider what has been achieved. Jesus calls us to remain in him, and, as a result, we will “bear much fruit” (John 15:8). What has been the fruit of our labor in the last decade?

In 2009, the first trips I made as executive director were to Haiti. There a team of US Brethren interviewed nine individuals to be licensed into the ministry of the Church of the Brethren in our efforts to start the fledgling mission. Among the nine were two brothers: Jean Altenor, in whose house the first Brethren congregation was started in Port-au-Prince, and his older brother, Duvelis Altenor, in a remote mountain village of Grand Bois on the Dominican Republic border.

When Frère (“brother”) Jean, as he is called in Haiti, encountered the Brethren and understood our unique perspective of the gospel, he immediately went home and shared the good news with his brother Duvelis. When we interviewed him in 2009, Duvelis was hard at work getting a new church established in Grand Bois. We asked about his sense of calling and ministry, and Duvelis, a very quiet man, shared that, besides being a pastor of the congregation, he would hike through the mountains and visit the sick and suffering. This has led to much growth in the church, making it the largest Church of the Brethren congregation in Haiti.

I have wanted to visit Grand Bois for many years (and did so after joining the Haitian Brethren for their seventh annual conference gathering). The journey to Grand Bois is dreadfully hard with hours of creeping along rocky donkey trails in 4-wheel drive until, just when you feel your body cannot handle another bump, you park the car and hike down into the village.

When we arrived, we visited the church first. Though the community is poor and agrarian—growing crops of maize and beans in stone-filled plots of land—it came together to purchase land and construct a Brethren meeting house. God has so blessed their ministry that the building cannot hold all of their 400 members.

Our second stop near Grand Bois was to the capped spring. Traditionally, the community has relied on a small, natural spring that flows from the mountains forming a small creek. Community members travel far to the creek but the water is never very clean. In the dry season, its flow is very limited. This year we were able to cap the spring with cement (which prevents animals from trampling through it), and build a series of tanks to move the water closer to the village with the aid of a pump and a generator. Communities are very sensitive to anyone messing with their only water source, but the Haitian Brethren have a reputation of trust and competence.

Our third stop was to the home of Duvelis and his family. He was thrilled to show us the cabinet of medicine and introduce us to the community health worker who manages it. The community pharmacy program provides treatment for basic needs. Their cabinet saves a person from needing to travel a full day’s journey out of the mountains to get treatment. Duvelis’s heart and passion for the sick is extending in ways we had not anticipated in 2009:  clean water, medical clinics, and now a community pharmacy. 

After 10 years, it’s wonderful to celebrate the growth of the church in Haiti. Fruit remains when fruit replicates more fruit. The church in Grand Bois sees itself as the church of the community and spends its time and effort serving the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of its community. It delights in the partnership it has with other Brethren churches in Haiti and with other Brethren congregations on Hispaniola, as well as in the US and around the globe. They intend to be an active participant in the global Church of the Brethren body.

Life is hard in Haiti and poverty is endemic, but a caring church inspires members to find a calling of service. This is what inspired Duvelis to embrace a Brethren understanding of a holistic gospel of compassion and peace, and, quite literally, a cup of cold water. Duvelis inspires me to share the good news of the compassion of Jesus.

What we see happening for the Haitian Brethren is one of many examples of how God has blessed the global church in the last decade. May we be encouraged by the fruits of ministry for our sisters and brothers around the world.

Learn more about Global Mission and Service ministries of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/gms or support them at www.brethren.org/givegms.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Introductions + OPP Work Update

Hello! My name is Susuyu Lassa, and I am excited to join Nathan Hosler at the COB Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. I am glad to be here, because peacebuilding has always been a passion of mine, though it has gone by various names in my short 23 years of life. I’ve known from a young age that I am called to a life of volunteerism and service; I remember spending a number of my weekends throughout middle and high school volunteering however I could, be it spending the majority of a day painting the outer walls of a recently erected building at a mission compound, or spending just a few hours holding new born babies at an orphanage.

After graduating from Hillcrest School in Jos, Nigeria, I seamlessly transitioned into being a political science major on a pre-law track at Manchester University. I knew that I wanted to go into human rights and advocacy, and my passion for working with the disenfranchised and marginalized was born out of seeing my people suffer massive displacement and death at the hands of radical insurgency and ethno-religious conflict. I was convinced that if I went to school and became a lawyer, I would be equipped to move back to Nigeria and positively apply myself in the march towards the betterment of the lives of those affected by displacement and violent conflict. Then I spent a summer shadowing a slew of lawyers and realized law was not for me.

Back to the drawing board. I was devastated, not because of the realization that law would not be a good fit -in fact I was quite glad to have figured that out sooner than later- but because I found myself with no objective path to my goals. Law had been the plan since I was in middle school, and I found myself at the dreaded ‘what now?’ impasse. In the throes of the closest thing I had ever had to an existential crisis, my guardian angel, in the form of a few members of the Manchester Church of the Brethren, whispered to me, “what about policy advocacy?” That was my breakthrough. Halfway through the first semester of my last year of college, I began looking into how I could positively influence policy so as to better the lives of those in whom I had an active interest. I learned of the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, about the work done specifically on Nigeria, and with marginalized groups within the U.S. such as people of color, and more recently refugees and immigrants. I spent three weeks of my January term unofficially interning at the office, and I became more and more curious about BVS.

Fast forward a few months later, and here I am, a BVSer serving as the associate in the OPP office this year. This is about the last place freshman-year Susu would have envisioned ending up, but therein lies the beauty of the organic nature of life; that we are constantly becoming. I am excited to plug in to the work being done on immigration and to join the various discussions being had on the hill surrounding the multi-faceted nature of conflict in Nigeria. In my short time here, I have been able to delve into immigration work by joining the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, and I have been blessed to have conversations and brainstorm ideas with folks from various Brethren churches who would like to plug into these issues and be a force for change within their local communities. Through the Nigeria Working Group, I have had the opportunity to hear diverse perspectives on pertinent issues such as the Farmer-Herder conflict, and am looking forward to the working group’s fall congressional briefing, during which the role of the U.S. foreign policy and humanitarian aid will be highlighted.

Recently, OPP director Nathan Hosler met with the in-going ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, to brief her on the scope of OPP and the Nigeria Working Group’s work on Nigeria. He also attended the International Religious Panel roundtable meeting with Sam Brownback, the Ambassador at Large for International Religious freedom.

Nathan Hosler speaking at the International Religious Panel Roundtable

The Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, while small, is engaged in such important work. The need is vast, and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to try to nip away slowly at the vast injustices that plague our world by working in this office and using this platform to bear witness to the words of the Bible, which in Proverbs 31:8 calls us to “speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute.”

September Activities

Highlights include: 18 homes rebuilt, school fees for 33 children, food for 427 households, business grants for 56 women, and a security tips workshop for 92 (see pictures below)

In September the EYN Disaster Ministry continued its recovery efforts. 18 family homes were rebuilt in a village off the beaten path. Extra workers were employed to carry the roofing materials across the river. Those whose homes were repaired expressed their thanks; they thought no one would ever be able to reach them with this much needed help after their village was burned by the Boko Haram.

School is not free for children in Nigeria and sometimes the family cannot afford the school fees. As a new school year started, Disaster Ministry was able to pay the fees for 33 orphans.

Food distributions are still taking place across the region. Help was given at three camps for Internally Displaced Persons in Maiduguri. In Garkida region, a distribution for 132 families helped Christians and Muslims.

A workshop was held at the Headquarters for District leaders, staff, and heads of church programs. The workshop for 92 people dealt with how to handle ongoing security issues and gave tips and best practices during this difficult time.

In a subsistence farming culture, families try to grow enough food to feed themselves and then sell the excess for other necessities. In addition to farming, many people have a small business on the side but start-up capital is always hard to come by especially for widows. The Women’s Ministry coordinated Disaster Ministry funds to train 56 women in tailoring and business practices. At their graduation from the training, each woman was provided with $150 start-up capital to put their new skills to work.

Please continue to pray for Nigeria and the ongoing Disaster work.

How do you measure success?

Global Food Initiative
www.brethren.org/gfi

By Jeff Boshart, manager of the Global Food Initiative

As I travel for the Global Food Initiative (GFI) of the Church of the Brethren, I am sometimes asked, “How do you measure success?” Answering that question begins with an understanding that true success comes from the Lord. As Isaiah 10:15 reveals, tools need someone to wield them in order to be useful. Likewise, GFI is simply a tool that is used by God to help our partners serve effectively in their local communities. After acknowledging God’s involvement, I also say, “Good things ARE happening with GFI and its partners around the globe.” And it’s great when recipients of GFI grants share their stories.

Dawn Blackman from the Randolph Street Community Garden, an outreach of the Champaign (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, received a grant to pay community members in great need to labor in the garden. She wrote: “With the use of the [GFI] funds, we not only got more infrastructure work done this summer in the garden, but there were people trained to lighten my load and even take over when I needed help. Additionally, some casual labor recipients became volunteers in our other ministries. It has been a good year! We would love to be able to continue this program in its current form or to even increase our ‘Tools and Manual Library.’”

Etienne Nsanzimana in Rwanda shared: “Our ministry has been serving with the Batwa [Pygmy] people farming potatoes for the last 7 years. Traditionally they were hunter-gatherers living in the forests. When violence caused them to leave the forest, they became outcasts, surviving by begging and stealing. Now they are working and feeding themselves. Malnutrition has decreased in their children and many are going to school. Recently, 36 of the adult Batwa accepted Christ and some formed a choir in the church named “Makerubi” (meaning “Cherubim”). They are committed to spreading the love of Christ through their songs. We have seen a real change in their lives and have great hopes for the next generation.”

Lastly, Alfredo Merino in Ecuador wrote, “With the support of the GFI, the training project in agroecology and gastronomy for youth of the Pedro Moncayo-Pichincha area has been a success in all respects. Dozens of young people [over 500] have participated, resulting in increased environmental awareness. We will continue to encourage youth to cultivate their small gardens, eat better, and take pride in preparing their own food. Thank you for all your support. It is a blessing as we continue this work.”

Thank you for your partnership in the important work being done around the world through the Global Food Initiative. God is truly blessing this ministry and changing lives. Please prayerfully consider how you will help us respond to future needs.

Learn more about the Global Food Initiative at www.brethren.org/gfi or support it today at www.brethren.org/givegfi .

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)