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.)

Serving together for a purpose

Brethren Disaster Ministries long-term project leaders
Steve Keim and Kim Gingerich (first row from left) enjoy watching
friendships develop among volunteers coming from different
districts and backgrounds as they share God’s love together.
Photo by Brethren Disaster Ministries staff
By Kim Gingerich, long-term disaster project leader

As a long-term volunteer project leader with the Brethren Disaster Ministries (BDM) Rebuilding program, I have had the privilege of experiencing this ministry from the “inside” for more than five years. I’ve been given the opportunity to see our denomination through different eyes:  the eyes of service, compassion, and love.  The one thing that keeps standing out to me is how we are united, as opposed to how we might be divided. The “we” are volunteers who come from different districts across the denomination to serve together each week. I often comment to them during our end-of-week debriefing that this ministry is the best-kept secret of our denomination.

Why do I say that? Because those who come to serve strive for a common goal that we fulfill together. What is that common goal? To glorify God as we serve with our hands, feet, and hearts to help restore hope in our clients and the communities in which we serve. Because we have that common goal, we are united. Despite our differences, we are united. We are united because we are motivated by love—God’s love for us and our love for Him—which in turn compels us to love our neighbor as ourselves. As Galatians 5:13-14 tells us: “Serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command:  Love your neighbor as yourself.”

This is how we build the body and unite the church, week after week:  through acts of service that provide opportunities to break down barriers and build relationships. Serving. United. Being the church.

Since BDM has combined its two project sites into one in Lumberton, N.C., we have received a lot of feedback from volunteers that illustrates this unity through service. Here are just a few:

• We are working with people for a common goal—an extraordinary goal.
• It’s the Holy Spirit taking human form, out of our hearts and into our hands.
• We’re so different but we have so much in common.
• Volunteers are like-minded people.
• We come as strangers but leave as friends or family.
• We are stronger together.

Together, across districts and denominations, we come. Different but the same, bound together by love, serving for a purpose, restoring hope, and being the church as we build homes and relationships. These are the real ministries the Rebuilding program of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

This reflection was originally featured in the summer issue of Bridges newsletter produced by Brethren Disaster Ministries. Learn more about the Rebuilding program at www.brethren.org/bdm/rebuild or support it today at www.brethren.org/bdm/givenow .

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

100 Children Attend Trauma Workshops

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.

Blessed and multiplied


Photo by Steve Buissinne

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 trabenstein@brethren.org .

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.

This reflection was originally featured in Bridge, a publication of Youth and Young Adult ministries.

The way of Jesus

Joshua Brockway speaking at the Discipleship Ministries dinner
at Annual Conference 2019.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

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.

Learn more about Discipleship Ministries at www.brethren.org/discipleshipmin or support them today at www.brethren.org/givediscipleship.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Praise for EYN’s Disaster Ministry

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.

Youth Peace Advocate: Camp Pine Lake

I’m 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,

In 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.

In Jesus name,

Amen

Youth Peace Advocate: Camp Emmaus

            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 peacemakers.

            God of Peace,

You 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.

            In Jesus name,

            Amen

United: Pursuing the mind of Christ

www.brethren.org/missionoffering
Photo by Smith Gameti

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.”

(Romans 15:1-9, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, 1 Corinthians 10:24, John 15:18-19, Romans 5:5, Philippians 2:6-7, Ephesians 4:13; John 13:35, Genesis 12:3; NIV)

Find this and other worship resources for the Mission Offering or support it today at www.brethren.org/giveoffering.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)