n July, five workshops were held for children ages 10 to 17. Each workshop was held in a different town and included 10 girls and 10 boys. Most of the attendees were orphans; some lost their parents from natural deaths and others as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency. Many children have been victims of trauma and care was taken to invite those who had experienced the most trauma. Some children were chosen from the Madagali area where continued attacks occur and the area is still volatile.
Many of the children’s stories are heartbreaking. Part of the healing process involves telling your story, learning the effects of trauma, and forgiving those who caused the trauma.
Here are excerpts from three stories:
Jadiwar (14) – I ran into the bush and lived on a rock near one of the Boko Haram hideouts with very little food or water. I narrowly escaped but whenever I remember the event, it breaks my heart. I thank God for this workshop which has helped me to remember my hardship without letting it tear me apart.
Hauwa (15) – I was shot by Boko Haram militants in our house during the attacks. My father left me in a pool of blood and ran for his life. My brother came back and rescued me. Even though my physical wound was healed, I couldn’t work well or go to school. Before the workshop I found it difficult to forgive my father because I thought he hated my but now I have forgiven him.
Happy (15) – I lost both my parents and I was living with my elderly brother who started selling hard drugs to get money for our survival. He was arrested and put in prison. Due to the trauma, I could not sleep. But coming to this workshop has helped me regain my confidence and hope in life and I am sleeping better.
In other Disaster news…
On August 18, the town of Kidlindila was attacked by the Boko Haram. Although no persons were killed, the insurgents burned eight houses and ten businesses. Everyone fled the area and for several days no one could get back to asses the damage. Just three weeks after the attack, EYN Disaster Ministry provided an emergency distribution with food and sleeping mats for those affected.
By Traci Rabenstein, director of Mission Advancement,
In May, I was blessed to attend Young Adult Conference. The theme scripture this year was Ephesians 3:16-20 and invited us to “test the lengths” of Christ’s love for us and to “reach out and experience the breadth” of the Holy Spirit within us. We are called to empower others to go where we can’t go and reach out to those whom we can’t reach. We do this by giving to support this work of the church. When we give what we are able, we trust in Christ’s transformative power. If Jesus used five loaves and a couple fish to feed more than 5,000 people, can’t our gifts, no matter their size, be blessed and multiplied in the same way?
Growing up, I was taught to give 10% of my income to the work of the church. I haven’t always been able to do this, and it took some time and creative budget planning to get to this point. What helped me was creating a spreadsheet to track my monthly income and spending. There are certainly all kinds of apps and software out there to do this now, but it can still be very valuable to see all your money outlined in an old-fashioned spreadsheet. Doing this exercise helped me become more intentional about giving to ministries that are important to me.
Today, while I still use a spreadsheet, I also use www.brethren.org/give . Through the online giving form, I scheduled a monthly recurring gift to support the ministries of the Church of the Brethren that I am passionate about. (Voluntarily, each member of my team has done this, too.)
If you would like more information about how to give, the mission and ministry of the Church of the Brethren, or would like a copy of the budget spreadsheet I use, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com .
May you be blessed in your efforts to “test the lengths” of Christ’s love and to “reach out and experience the breadth” of the Holy Spirit.
By Joshua Brockway, director of Spiritual Formation
Earlier this year, I picked up March, a graphic novel by Congressman John Lewis. The first volume of the series sketches the plotline from Lewis’s early life to the first success of the Nashville sit-ins in 1960.
One of the pages, in particular, caught my eye. On the day of the first arrests of the Nashville protests, a white student named Paul LaPrad was pulled from the lunch counter and beaten. The page stood out to me, not because LaPrad was white, but because I heard his story during my undergraduate studies at Manchester College. LaPrad was a Church of the Brethren young adult and would later graduate from Manchester. He attended James Lawson’s weekly workshops on nonviolence, heard the experiences of Jim Crow and racism from his black peers, and learned to withhold a violent response to verbal and physical attacks.
Since reading March and other accounts of the Nashville student movement, as well as talking with Paul LaPrad, I have come to one conclusion: Peacemaking is a way of life.
We talk about peace often in the church—and rightly so—but when I read about Lawson and his nonviolence workshops, I realized how counter-intuitive nonviolence truly is. Violence, whether through fists or words, is ingrained in us at an early age when we are taught to stand up for ourselves. We are encouraged to share witty retorts to insults. We are entertained by verbal sparring on news channels and by retributive violence on big and small screens.
So in order to live nonviolent lives—and like Jesus—we must be re-formed. This means that peacemaking is not a means to an end but, rather, the result of a long and intentional process of formation. Through our discipleship, we are made into the likeness of the Prince of Peace.
Our ministries, from Sunday school classes using Guide for Biblical Studies to youth groups gathering to raise money for National Youth Conference, keep us in the path of the “long obedience in the same direction,” as the late Eugene Peterson would say. Our ministries don’t just teach the ideas of peace, but they invite us to read the Scriptures through the nonviolent life of Jesus. Our practices of mutual aid and service are not a means to happy living or random acts of kindness, but are acts of obedience to Christ. And our witness and advocacy in our communities and nation are extensions of our relationships with those pushed to the edge of our culture through unjust laws and policies.
Thank you for the ways you disciple others in the nonviolent way of Jesus. Thank you for the ministries you lead and support in your congregation, district, and the denomination. And most of all, thank you for promoting the practices of discipleship and peace through your gifts to the Church of the Brethren.
The work of the Disaster Ministry is demanding and sometimes dangerous. Many humanitarian relief agencies focus on one main area of assistance, but the Disaster Ministry does it all. Their areas of focus include food, shelter and home repairs, trauma counseling, medical care, education of orphans, livelihood development for widows, along with training others in security and disaster preparedness. The work involves a lot of travel over poor roads and often in semi-secure areas. President of EYN, Joel Billi, said, “We always say a prayer when we see members of the disaster ministry leave the headquarters because we know they face many challenges as they assist others.”
In July alone, 736 persons received food, 10 homes in a remote area were roofed, 12 leaders attended the security workshop, 946 people were screened for Hepatitis B, and 40 victims received trauma counseling.
Successes: The IDPs who live in the EYN relocation camp near Abuja are beginning to care for themselves; people have secured farm lands, built new shelters for their families, bought used cars, and established small businesses. Teachers at the school are receiving a small salary.
Challenges: In Maiduguri, one of the temporary camps is located on donated personal property and now the owner wants his land back. Where will they go? Villages continue to be attacked by Boko Haram, refugees from Cameroon want to return to Nigeria but have no place to live. Please pray for our sisters and brothers in Nigeria.
exhausted. I’ve got a serious farmer’s tan, several bug bites, and my hair
desperately needs cut. Eight straight weeks of either helping lead camp or
traveling to the next one takes a lot out of a person. I have been fighting off
a cold for the last couple of weeks. As soon as camp this week ended and I had
time to really rest it hit me with a vengeance. But I wouldn’t trade my
experience this summer for the world!
Camp Pine Lake in Iowa was my final week
of the summer and the youngest age group with which I worked – those who have
finished third through fifth grades. This group definitely skewed more towards
the third-grade side. While I had run a couple sessions for campers of this age
group or even younger before at other camps, this was the only week where they
were my primary target age. I had to readjust and revise my planned sessions
for this age group, but the camp staff was more than happy to help.
It was fitting to end at Pine Lake; in
a way, it was also the place I started the summer. The week after graduation
Manchester University’s A Capella Choir goes on tour. This year we were heading
for Kansas City, and stopped for a concert at Pine Lake. While helping to move
everything inside, I mentioned to the leadership that I would be back in a
couple months as the Youth Peace Advocate (YPA). At the end of the concert, I
was formally introduced by them as this summer’s YPA for the first time.
For most of the days, I ended up incorporating
parts of my sessions into the Bible study for the day. On Friday, I led the “Little
Red Riding Hood/Maligned Wolf” session with some help from the week’s “Camp Grandpa.”
The campers seemed to particularly enjoy the games I used as teaching examples.
My favorite memory from Pine Lake
was our Monday night campfire. We had reordered the daily themes for the week,
so we were focusing on Agape and how Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. That
night, staff left our four basins for the campers by the fire. Three were for
feet washing and one for handwashing. Nobody was forced to participate, but
campers and staff were encouraged to participate as they felt led to ask
another if they could wash their feet. Unlike most Love Feasts I’ve attended,
where the act is primarily symbolic, the water the campers were using quickly
got dirty with the dirt and grass of a long day spent in God’s creation. After
washing each other’s feet, some of the other staff and I brought around
communion bread that had been made by previous camps and offered each camper
and staff to break off a piece, and prayed together “This bread which we break
is the communion of the body of Christ.” (One of the councilors who is a pastor
explained to the campers that some churches ask people to be baptized before
they receive communion, but the decision to participate was “between you and
God.”) We they brought around the cups of grape juice and prayed together “This
cup which we drink is the communion of the blood of Christ.” For me, this was
one of the most significant moments of encounters with God and moments of
community of the entire summer.
While this was my last week as the Youth
Peace Advocate, it was Pine Lake’s Program Director Barbara Wise Lewczak’s last
camp before retiring from that position. Given what I was feeling with it being
my last camp as the Youth Peace Advocate, I cannot imagine what it must have
felt like for her. I was glad I was able to be there and work with her just
before this era of Pine Lake history draws to a close.
Thinking about legacies and cycles,
when I mentioned my parents had visited Camp Pine Lake under similar
circumstances thirty-three years ago one of the long-time councilor’s ears
perked up. After some discussion he remembered meeting them, as he had been a
councilor during their week at Pine Lake with the Outdoor Ministries
Association Team in 1986! I hope I have left a legacy worth of all those I’ve
built on and trust God to continue to lead us into the future.
This summer was hard work. During
orientation and my first week at Camp Colorado, I felt underqualified and
overwhelmed. But as I figured out my sessions and developed a rhythm, I fell in
love with the job. I wasn’t always sure if what I was trying to get across was
reaching the campers. But I almost always had at least a couple of campers come
up and tell me how much they loved my sessions. I was invited to a baptism. I
helped lead anointing and communion. I was pushed outside my comfort zone to
hike up mountains and lead campers in geocaching. I led campfires and learned
many new songs, and variations on old ones. Many campers asked if I would be
back next year. I would be more than happy to volunteer at any of the camps I
was at this summer again in some other role. It was an amazing summer. Now I am
looking forward to a couple weeks of rest before I start the next part of my
journey as this years BVS intern in the Office of Youth and Young Adult
Ministries in Elgin. It is in God’s hands now. Remember, Peace Works!
God of Peace,
the scriptures you show us your call for peace and reconciliation, and what
happens when we fail to live out your peace. Help us to remember Jesus’s
example that Peace Works. May we bring the lessons we have learned together to
our communities and be empowered by your Holy Spirit to bring forth the kingdom
of God in this world.
I’m almost the end of my summer.
Camp Emmaus was my second to last stop as the Youth Peace Advocate. Weirdly,
this summer has seemed simultaneously quick and long. On one hand, it seems
like starting out at Camp Colorado was just a short while ago. On the other
hand, I am really starting to feel the drain of each week of camp. As I move
towards the end, I have a whole mix of feelings. But for now, I enjoyed my time
at Camp Emmaus.
After a camp of ten at Brethren
Heights, Emmaus, though still smaller than some of the other camps I’ve visited
this summer, felt like a return to a larger group. I was with Jr. High age
campers again. Many of the councilors and staff for the week were old friends
who have been doing this for years, but I was not the only new person and never
felt excluded or unwelcome. Being in Illinois, I also got to meet several
people who I will probably get to know better when I move Elgin next month to
work in the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries as a BVSer.
I also appreciated having the chance
to reconnect with an old friend. Walt Wiltschek was the campus pastor at
Manchester University (MU) for the first semester I was a student there; this week
he was the was the chaplain for Camp Emmaus. I appreciated getting to hear his
perspective and share his sense of humor this week. It was an interesting experience
now that I’ve come out the other side of my time at MU, with all the ways I’ve
grown and changed since. It was a pleasure to work on my sessions with him.
On Tuesday we hiked to a state park
nearby for most of the morning and had lunch and horizontal hour at the park.
It was not near as steep as the hikes up the mountains I took at Camp Colorado and
Camp Blue Diamond, but walking down the road, stopping for rest, singing songs
and telling jokes and stories reminded me of my time on the Student Cross
pilgrimage when I studied abroad in Cheltenham, England through BCA. Like that
trip, the bonding and friendship that developed during the walk far outweighed
any exhaustion we felt.
Once again, I got a chance to lead
campfire songs for the camp. The campers and councilors enjoyed learning a
couple new songs and experiencing some new-to-them variations of old familiar
ones. For the talent show on Friday, the councilors sang a parody of “Proud
Mary,” recounting our week at camp. I got a chorus about me and my work as the
Youth Peace Advocate. Unfortunately, due to some other things I had to take
care of, I was unable to join the camp when they visited and sang at Pinecrest,
a nearby Brethren retirement community. At the end of the final campfire, we all
lit candles we arranged in the shape of a cross. Standing on the balcony of the
main lodge we looked down at the cross and sang together.
The theme of the final day of camp
is “aloha” again. The scripture is John 14:25-27, and the focus going out. To
be honest, this is the probably the daily theme I have engaged with the least. Because
most of the camps I have visited end on Friday, sometimes we didn’t make it to
this theme at all, or it was combined with “Sí Se Puede,” or if we did reach
the theme it was often overshadowed by the fact this was the last day of camp. In
this passage, Jesus assures us: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I
do not give it to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled,
and do not let them be afraid.” Christ is always with us, empowering us to be
God of Peace,
have promised to send your children your Holy Spirit and grant us your peace,
which the world cannot give. Help us to rest in your peace and share it with
the world. May we let it be known each day, building up your kingdom and making
it present here on earth.
A scripture medley with Romans 5:1-9 for the 2019 Mission Offering
ONE: We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.
ALL: I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong.
ONE: Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.
ALL: No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
ONE: For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”
ALL: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. . . . As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.”
ONE: For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
ALL: And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
ONE: May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other [as] Christ Jesus,
ALL: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,
ONE: So that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
ALL: Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
ONE: Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
ALL: For Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
ONE: For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
ALL: “I will bless those who bless you, . . . and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
As I write this, I am in the midst of writing position descriptions, learning more fully the ins and outs of our volunteer insurance policy, and responding to our BVS partners with organizational position statements. And then I looked at this issue’s topic, finding joy. I couldn’t help but chuckle.
In my nearly seven years of working for Brethren Volunteer Service, I have not very often struggled to find joy in my work. The BVS office in Elgin is a pretty fun place to be! However, I must be honest, in this time of transition with no BVS director after Dan McFadden’s resignation, to then being called to fill the position myself, creating joy has sometimes had to be a more intentional part of my work.
This winter, I hopped on the bandwagon of watching Marie Kondo “spark joy” for so many by helping them to purge and organize their belongings. There was one part of the process that I was admittedly skeptical of at first, but learned to appreciate when I put it into practice myself. When the homeowners decided that something was no longer sparking joy for them, before they put it in the “toss” pile, Marie had them thank that item out loud for serving them.
While I can’t toss out the tasks that I do every day that don’t spark joy for me, I can be intentional about finding the joy in those tasks–how they serve our volunteers and our program. It has also been important for me as I’ve settled into the role of director of BVS to think about the history of BVS and how it has served us, and moving forward, learning how to thank those pieces that no longer serve us and usher in new programming that sparks joy for the next generation of BVSers.
Joy may have to be intentionally found at times. But allowing our work and calling to spark joy while also letting go of and thanking the seasons in life that have served us but are no longer needed is a delicate but important balance. What would the world look like if we all followed a calling that sparked joy in us?
This reflection was originally published in the Summer installment of the “The Volunteer” newsletter. Learn more about Brethren Volunteer Service at www.brethren.org/bvs.
Being the Youth Peace Advocate at Camp Alexander
Mack was a very different experience than doing it anywhere else this summer.
Camp Mack is my home camp, where I’ve been attending in some form for
twenty-three years. Everywhere else I am Nolan, this year’s Youth Peace
Advocate. At Camp Mack I am Nolan, the former camper/CIT/councilor/Ministry
Summer Service intern who most people have known forever and is the Youth Peace
Advocate this year. It was good to be home.
During the week I was primarily working with the Followers and Splash camps. Both were for campers of Jr. High age. The team leaders (the same role as deans at almost every other camp) for Splash camp were my parents, Rosalie and Ryan McBride, which combined with my brother and sister working summer staff meant my entire family was at Camp Mack last week. After about a month of traveling across the country it was good for us all to be together. Additionally, I knew several other staff members of both camps, so it was very different to begin the week knowing so many people.
My daily schedule and responsibilities as the Youth Peace Advocate were also different. While exactly what was expected of me was different at each new place, all the camps before this week had explicitly set aside time for me lead my own sessions with the campers during the week. At Camp Mack both sets of team leaders already had schedules set up, and I was invited to participate and bring what I’ve put together into their plans as much or as little as I wanted. The Splash Camp leaders did explicitly ask me to lead a tour of the Brethren history murals in Quinter-Miller auditorium. Painted in 1949, the murals tell this history of the Church of the Brethren up to then, and include the artist’s prediction up to the 300th anniversary in 2008. A newer mural of more recent Brethren history was created in 2000. The murals have long been one of my favorite parts of camp, and I was excited to get to share about them. Of course, me being a History and Religious Studies major whose era of emphasis is the early modern period, this was kind of a dangerous thing to ask of me. Having recently studied the origins of the Pietist movement which shaped the Brethren movement, I might have spent a little longer than intended on “historical context.” (Hey, to understand the Brethren’s break with the state churches you need to know about the relationship between church and state in the middle ages, which means you need to know about Constantine, and so on.)
I also went boating twice with Splash Camp: kayaking Tuesday in Goshen and sailing Thursday on Lake Michigan. It was a great time, even if I fell into the river kayaking and took at least ten minutes trying to get back in.
The word of the day for the fifth day of camp is “heiwa,” a Japanese word meaning “balance.” The scripture is Mark 12:28-31, the two greatest commandments. I usually start my session for this day by asking the kids to play a game where they stand in a circle with one person being “it.” That person chooses another in the circle whom they attempt to make laugh any way short of touching them. If the laugh, they are now “it.” Afterwards I ask the campers how it was to try and not laugh, what techniques they used, and if they think it would be easier if they practiced this game every day. We then discuss the importance of practice in peacemaking, using the Civil Rights movement as an example, and the Christian life more generally. I play a section from the first episode of the Episcopal Church’s Way of Love podcast (11:38-17:36). It is an interview with the denomination’s Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who recently made headlines around the world for his sermon on love at last year’s royal wedding. Bishop Curry uses the metaphors of firefighter/first responder springing into action or an athlete training for their sport to talk about how practices such as prayer, Bible study, gathering for public worship, and others mold us to be more like Jesus, so we live out his call without having to think about it. It becomes our instinctual reaction. After discussing the main points of the interview, I ask the campers to list the practices we have been following at camp that mold us to be peacemakers and help us live more like Jesus. After we have a good list going, I challenge the campers to consider how they can incorporate these practices into their daily lives.
Redeeming God, We thank you that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and accepted and loved by you not because of anything we have done, but because of your very nature. Grant that through our life we may be drawn closer to you and molded into the image of your son, our savior, Jesus.