Three easy ways to get your church online

Before pursuing any of these options, you need a church e-mail address. You can get one for free at  GoogleYahooOutlook or other sites. At least three people should have the user name and password for the e-mail, and it should be checked regularly. Be sure to send the e-mail address to the main Church of the Brethren office.

Set up a website

Oakton Church of the Brethren website

Oakton Church of the Brethren website

There are a number of free options, such as or or It simply takes someone with a few computer skills (not a trained technical person) to create a site with these services.

If you use these sites, your URL (web address) would have the site name in it, such as If you want to have your own URL without the site name (something like, you need to get a “domain name.” The cost varies, but averages around $15/year, with discounts for purchasing multiple years. The registration must be renewed at the end of the time or you lose it. You do not have to buy a domain name to have a website—but your own web address might be simpler for people to remember. The web site would be the same in either case; only the address would be different.

Create a Facebook page

Facebook automatically generates a page for any business or organization it finds. Find yours by searching within Facebook. Someone can go in and edit this profile, adding photos, service information and so forth. You can use this as your web page if you like. However, you do not have complete control since the page is “owned” by Facebook.

A better bet is to create your own church Facebook page. Go to and follow instructions from there. Before doing this, decide on a page name since you can only change it once.

Once you have a church Facebook page, you can click the “duplicate page” on Facebook’s automated listing so that the new one will replace their auto-generated one.

You may want to have both a public page for people to find you and a private group (for group members only) to share prayer requests within the congregation. That is up to you!

Here are some tips for using Facebook:

Claim your Google listing
Another free way to have a better web presence is to claim your Google listing. Google makes a listing for all businesses it finds. Search for your church, then click “Manage this page.” You can upload photos, service times and so forth. This shows right away for anyone searching via Google. You will have to sign in to Google to manage it. (Use a church or generic e-mail address, not someone’s personal e-mail address for this).

It’s a great idea for all churches to do this so that your service times and other crucial facts show. However, it’s better not to do it if your schedule varies and no one will remember to update the Google listing!

Three essential points

  1. Consider what are the best things about your church, then put them on the home page or feature them in photos on Google or Facebook. We often say our people are the best thing, then we display pictures of an empty building. Why not offer photos of community service activities, popular church events, or some of that great food we’re known for? It may still be a good idea to include photos of the church building alongside the directions or address so that people know what to look for when they visit.
    Photo note: Be sure to ask permission before using photos of people – and don’t list names or identifying details when displaying photos of children.
  2. Make sure at least 3 people have access to the site and can make updates. Create the site using a church or generic e-mail address rather than someone’s personal e-mail (what if they move?)
  3. Don’t offer features you will not be able to keep up. For instance, it’s better not to have a “News” page than to have “news” that is several years old. Remember that it’s easy to start things, but hard to maintain them.

Be sure to send your updated contact information to the main Church of the Brethren office. The Find a Church page sees heavy use!

How has your church used technology? Do you have tips to share with others?  

“For we are co-workers in God’s service:” Farm Workers and Gardens

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

7pm EST

Where do our fruits and vegetables come from? Who is responsible for seeing that these foods are harvested for us to buy and eat? What are the lives of these farm workers like? And how does our faith connect us to our brothers and sisters who do this work?

Through the Going to the Garden grant initiative of the Office of Public Witness and Global Food Crisis Fund, this webinar will focus on issues surrounding the national farm workers movement to create better work and living standards, and we will hear from individuals deeply involved with the National Farm Worker Ministry (NFWM) and the NFWM’s Youth and Young Adult network in order to understand what these two groups are doing to support farm workers. We will also discuss how individuals can show support and solidarity in their own communities through initiatives like Going to the Garden.

Join us as we discuss how farm workers are organizing, how individuals and groups are becoming involved, and what we can all do about it in our own communities and churches! If you have any questions, please email, and to register for this webinar, please go to


Lindsay-ComstockRev. Lindsay Andreolli-Comstock, an ordained Baptist minister and former human-trafficking specialist, serves as Executive Director of the National Farm Worker Ministry.  Andreolli-Comstock has served congregations in Virginia and Massachusetts as well as four years as a human-trafficking specialist in Southeast Asia.  She is a former Board of Directors member for the Alliance of Baptists and a doctoral candidate at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.  Andreolli-Comstock holds a bachelor’s degree in Religion and Philosophy from Chowan University in Murfreesboro, N.C., and a Master of Divinity degree from Baptist Theological Seminary of Richmond.

Nico - YAYA.NFWMNico Gumbs is the Florida state coordinator of the National Farm Worker Ministry’s youth-led program, YAYA.  Gumbs has been in the agriculture sector most of their live, from growing up on a farm, in avocado groves to over 8 years with Future Farmers of America (FFA) and now active in the farmworker movement for over 3 years.  Their undying compassion for farm worker justice is pertinent to their idea of a socially just world.

imageedit_1_9065135270Daniel McClain is the Director of Program Operations for Graduate Theological Programs at Loyola University Maryland. His areas of research and publishing include the doctrine of creation, theologies of education and formation, political theology, and theologies of art and image. In addition to these areas, he has also led classes and workshops on the theology and ethics of work and creativity.

Planting New Seeds

Katie FurrowHello! My name is Katie Furrow, and I am working as the Food, Hunger, and Gardens Associate for the Global Food Crisis Fund and the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness through Brethren Volunteer Service. I am a recent graduate of Bridgewater College where I majored in Sociology with a minor in Peace Studies; in my senior year at Bridgewater, I was able to conduct a nine month long study on topics of hunger, food access, and community gardening, so I am very excited to spend my BVS term transforming the ideas I learned about into actions to benefit the community and the church.


During my time in Washington DC, I will be working closely with the Going to the Garden grant initiative to help congregations establish, maintain, and expand community gardens in their areas. It is our goal to use the gardens that have been established through the grant as educational tools to inform individuals in the gardens’ respective communities about issues surrounding hunger, food insecurity, and environmental stewardship. Hunger and food insecurity are major issues in nearly every community today. Nearly 1 in 8 individuals suffer from chronic hunger ( meaning that this is a subject which can no longer be ignored; given these numbers, it is likely that we all know someone who is having to face hunger, whether or not we realize it.


It is important to understand the causes of hunger and what we can do about it within our own communities; therefore, it is our hope that these gardens can become a starting point to introduce individuals and communities at large to such topics. Also, given my proximity to the workings of the national government, I will be working on larger advocacy concerns related to food access and insecurity while trying to maintain a focus on the local impacts of these issues. The constant and growing presence of hunger, and its multitude of causes, means that many different approaches must be taken to resolve it, and by creating a space for education and discourse, we can begin to understand ways to resolve such concerns and to empower individuals and their communities to take action.


In the words of 1 John 3:18, we are called to love not “with words or speech but with actions and truth.” Together, we can show love to those who are hungry in a multitude of ways, whether it is through a local community garden, advocating on a national level, or something in between. Together, we can make a difference in this movement toward fair food access for everyone.

Growing friendships

Squash harvested from the garden at  Mount Morris Church of the Brethren. Photo by Carol Erickson

Squash harvested from the garden at
Mount Morris Church of the Brethren.
Photo by Carol Erickson

By Carol Erickson, garden coordinator for the Mount Morris (Ill.) Church of the Brethren

Plans for our garden at the Mount Morris Church of the Brethren began on a snowy evening in 2009. Experienced and rookie gardeners, church people, limited income adults, and curious individuals gathered to discuss planting 32 garden plots across the street from the church. We decided that this garden would be dedicated to growing produce for the Loaves and Fish Food Pantry. Five years later, the garden has become not only a place to grow food but a place to grow friendships.

Many individuals have helped plan and tend our community garden. In January, we gathered to share favorite hot dishes, pore over seed catalogs, and brainstorm ways to improve the garden. A local farmer offered his Japanese beetle-free farm for growing sweet corn and winter squash. Elderly residents of the Pinecrest Community grew seedlings of tomatoes, peppers, and herbs that were transplanted to the garden in May. In the spring, members of the church and community planted 50 pounds of potatoes, 20 asparagus plants, 20 new strawberry plants, and more.

The “Going to the Garden” grant from the Global Food Crisis Fund and the Office of Public Witness, which empowers congregations to start or improve community gardens, has helped us reach our goals. Thanks to the extra funds, we have improved access to water by purchasing hoses and instruments to collect rainwater off the church. We have increased productivity by building new frames to contain each plot of vegetables, and by installing cattle gates to support the growth of tomato plants. We have also strengthened the community aspect of the garden by painting two weathered picnic tables and adorning them with umbrellas for shade.

To further improve the community of the garden, we offer planned activities. Gardeners gathered in June at the Mount Morris Senior Center to can strawberry jam. Monthly potlucks allow gardeners to prepare tasty dishes and share from their garden’s abundance. The garden is also available for picnics.

By harvest time, our community garden will provide over 5,000 pounds of vegetables to the food pantry, and residents of Pinecrest Community will receive two deliveries of sweet corn. We are so thankful for the “Going to the Garden” grant. It has helped us grow healthy, fresh produce for many, and cultivate meaningful relationships. It has helped us come a long way since that first snowy night.

“Going to the garden” is a joint initiative of the Global Food Crisis Fund and the Office of Public Witness. Visit to support this ministry today.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

The Kitchen

Sharing a meal at the BVS house in Elgin

Friends share a meal at the BVS house in Elgin, Illinois

By Katie Cummings

In my house
When I want to be with
I come
To the kitchen
And I sit
At the kitchen table.
Organically people may
Stretching on the floor after a run,
Shuffling pots and pans for dinner,
Reading a book in the glorious sun.
It is the heartbeat of our home,
Thumping to daily rhythms.

In the midst of cooking,
The kitchen becomes—
A stage
Our impromptu dance parties
Filling the spaces between
Linguine and cheddar cheese

With a warm cup of tea
And a listening ear—
I’ve stepped into
A therapy session
The linoleum floor bouncing back
The sacred words of our hearts.

With a hefty bag of thrifted finds—
The fluorescent lights reflect
The dazzling uniqueness of
A fashion show that only cost
Ten dollars.

In the heart of our home—
The kitchen

Our dancing stage
Can easily deteriorate to
An arena.
With a warrior on either side
For a death match.

The vibrations of the floor
Angry words and weighty sighs—
Slammed doors and broken conversations.

The fluorescents illuminate
The cracking pieces—
Shining lights into the deepest,
Most selfish parts of

And yet,
Those four walls
With open cabinets and an
Alphabetized spice rack—
Hold us—all.

As we come
To the kitchen table—
Angry with housemates.
Disappointed with work.
Fists clenched.
Jaw tightened.
Our hands open,
Reaching across the table
To hold another.
Fingers unfurl—
White knuckles regain their color.
Jaws relax,
Exhaling prayers
Inhaling the love inside
Homecooked food.
Eating brown rice or white,
Coconut curries and
We slowly find our way
To each other
To self.

The kitchen holds us—
Maybe better than we hold
Each other
The heartbeat of our home
The kitchen
Is that place that
Grace lives.

An Anabaptist Family Meeting

In the world of theological conversations it seems that everyone is talking about us. Brian McClaren named Anabaptists as part of the composition of his Generous Orthodoxy. Stuart Murray outlined the markers of a Naked Anabaptist. Greg Boyd and others continue to trumpet the peace testimony and challenge imperialist theologies, even to the point of losing members from their congregations in doing so. Funny thing is that in talking about us, these pastor theologians rarely get the opportunity to talk with us. Even more striking is the fact that those of us in the Anabaptist family rarely have the chance to talk together.

Thanks to Missio Alliance and a number of co-sponsors, including the Church of the Brethren, we finally got the chance to have a family meeting. On September 19 and 20 nearly 400 people met in Carlisle Pennsylvania to explore the intersections between Evangelicalism and Anabaptism. Historic Anabaptist groups such as the Brethren in Christ, Mennonite Church USA, and the Church of the Brethren all provided speakers. Emerging Anabaptist leaders such as Greg Boyd, Brian Zahnd, Bruxy Cavey, Kurt Willems also shared in the main sessions. Many noted from the stage and in the hallways that such a gathering of these groups is rare, and thus the opportunities are vast.

In a culture where Evangelicalism is increasingly identified with stripes of Calvinism and Reformed theology, the space opened by Missio Alliance and these Anabaptists revealed a depth to North American Evangelicalism. To be sure, Anabaptists and Evangelicals are not antithetical. Both strains of Free Church theology share the conviction that the Christian life is marked by conversion and adult baptism. We also have a high regard for the Bible as the church’s scriptures and a Christ centered vision of the Christian life. There are also significant markers of difference, but in this gathering one of the common points of conversation focused on a shared welcome of the end of Christendom thinking. That shared connection takes many forms, but the general idea that North American Christianity has been dominated by theologies that link empire building and the church was one that many rejected.

In the course of the gathering it was clear that we still needed to identify what we meant by “Anabaptist.” Some clearly understood it in a thick way, including communal interpretation of scripture and the desire to simply do what Jesus said we should be doing. Still others used Anabaptism as short hand for a non-violent ethic of discipleship. Yet, given the range of Anabaptist traditions and the many strains of influence in what is becoming called Neo-Anabaptist theology, we missed an opportunity to gain some understanding of this breadth and thus the possibilities for an engagement of Anabaptist thought in the wider theological conversations. Frank James of Biblical Seminary, while recounting the history of Anabaptism, also invited us to look at a larger dialog between Reformed and Anabaptist strains of Evangelicalism. The nature of this gathering, however, made it feel more like a family meeting than an opportunity to explore the range of Evangelicalism. To some, it felt like a gathering where many of us congratulated ourselves on being “Anabaptists.”

The format of the gathering also revealed an interesting contrast between historic Anabaptism and more culturally attuned Evangelicals. A number of noted Neo-Anabaptists were recruited as speakers, and it was clear that these were names intended to draw an audience. Many of us welcomed hearing and engaging these writers and pastors, yet for many historic Anabaptists, the celebrity culture of the North American Church was a clear hurdle. While Missio Alliance is framed as an organization that is trying to make space within the fissures of the North American church for important and integrative conversations, the conference still had an air of bringing in the celebrities to talk to a crowd. While several historic Anabaptists were part of the plenary schedule, it was quite clear that there was not much conversation to be had. Instead, the task of synthesizing the various ideas was placed on those in the audience.

Part of that reality was due to the schedule. In recruiting so many plenary speakers we crammed 3-4 presentations into a two hour sessions. When, as inevitably happens, speakers went over time the result was a question and answer time that was often limited to one question and a short response from (hopefully) each presenter. Rather than having a conversation, the end result was a collage of ideas that the leaders in the room had to assemble for themselves. This inundation of speakers also was a taxing schedule for all those who attended. There was simply too much to synthesize and keep track of, without much space created for processing the information. I wonder if the low attendance on the second day was in part due to exhaustion.

There certainly are, especially for those interested in Anabaptism, better ways of structuring a conference to reflect conversation and communal discernment than packing the sessions with so many speakers. I wonder if we could have had two or three short presentations from church and congregational leaders and had those celebrity pastors respond and be in conversation with those presenters.

The breakout sessions were clearly intended to be the space for conversation. Yet, we also leaned heavily on presenters who offered more content than on facilitators. I wonder if we could have tried not having set sessions and identified key concepts from the plenaries and offered space for those interested in talking together about critical topics that emerged from the presentations. This may still sound like what was intended by the planners, but we could have done this on a more ad hoc basis. Rather than ask people to prepare a session with more content and a little space for conversation, these sessions could have been more tactical and responsive to the issues arising in the large group sessions.

All that aside, this was surely a unique gathering. It offered a place for pastors and leaders who frequently feel alone and taxed to meet with others who are thinking in similar directions. As a staff person for the CoB who worked on the planning team, it was worth the effort seeing pastors engage a range of people talking about our tradition. It gave us the opportunity to network with other CoB pastors as well as connect to other leaders.

At the end, it was clear to me that this was just one conference that offers us future opportunities. In the plenaries a number of critical questions were raised that could easily bring us together again. Rather than try to narrate those questions, I will simply list a few that filled my own notes.

1) The mono-cultural problems with historic Anabaptists- Is our Germanic heritage an asset or a hurdle to sharing the unique emphases within our traditions?

2) Structural racism in our society and our churches- How can a tradition whose very beginnings were rooted in marginalization by the wider Christendom structures rethink our own complicity in the continued marginalization of others in our town and our churches?

3) The need for more women voices- The balance of presenters were men, yet the struggle seems that opening space for women isn’t the real issue. What changes in the Anabaptist conversations when the voices of the women who are clearly engaged are heard on their own terms, and not because they speak from the male dominated language and expectations?

New adventures

Ministry Summer Service interns preparing for their summer adventures at orientation in May. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Ministry Summer Service interns preparing for their
summer adventures at orientation in May.
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

By Lauren Seganos, Ministry Summer Service intern

“I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

It is both exciting and challenging to begin a new adventure: move to a new place, start a new job, meet new people. But as people of faith we trust that, wherever we go, God will be there. This summer I, along with several other young adults, had the opportunity to put our faith into action through Ministry Summer Service (MSS) of the Youth and Young Adult and Ministry Offices of the Church of the Brethren.

MSS provides young adults with summer ministry experiences in congregations, camps, district offices, and national programs. I participated in MSS as a seminary student seeking leadership development in a Brethren congregation, and I was blessed to serve at the Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren in Elizabethtown, Pa.

One of the most important lessons I learned this summer was finding confidence and trusting in my authority as a young, female minister. This was something that my MSS mentor, Pastor Pam Reist, and I discussed at the beginning of the summer, and it was a repeated theme throughout my experience. My 10 weeks at ECOB was an affirming exercise in finding my confidence as a minister and learning to trust in that authority more each day.

During my time at E-town, I also learned that pastoral ministry—being invited into people’s most special and vulnerable times—is truly a privilege. This summer I was present for and participated in anointings, funeral services, post-surgery prayers, end-of-life blessings, communion, and many other moments of vulnerability, connection, and community. I learned that pastors have a unique role in the Christian community, and to serve as a pastor of a Brethren congregation is a challenging and rewarding call.

God was surely at work this summer—in the ministry of MSS, in the congregations, camps, and offices who welcomed interns, and in the lives of those young adults who took on a new adventure to serve the church. I am thankful for Ministry Summer Service and the gift it offers young, emerging leaders in the Church of the Brethren.

Learn more about MSS at or by emailing . Support this important ministry at .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

“I can’t believe this was a real day”

Marie Schuster

Marie Schuster

By Marie Schuster

BVS volunteer Marie Schuster lives and works at the Brot und Rosen (Bread and Roses) Community in Hamburg, Germany, a house of hospitality for homeless refugees. She describes one of her days:

My alarm goes off: once, twice, three times und Aufstehen! Since days at my last BVS project at the L’Arche community in Tecklenburg, I very much enjoy living “above the shop” and getting the most out of every second I am in bed in the morning. I throw on some clothes just in time for the bell…yeah there’s a bell. A single ring indicates the beginning of our Andacht (morning prayer). Those who feel called, file downstairs to our basement chapel. We sing, pray, and reflect together.

After a quick breakfast I set out for Cafe Exil where I will meet up with other faithful vigilers to demonstrate outside of the immigration office across the street from the cafe. Today I have extra cargo: my backpack is full of medicine and bandages to drop off at Caritas’ medical center for homeless folks. (There is a good exchange between the “MediBüro” and this center. We both receive different donations and have different needs, but with the same goal: health care for the marginalized.) I also have two banners rolled up under my arm. We had taken them home from the Cafe last Thursday to use in our Good Friday Stations of the Cross for the rights of refugees procession. They have slogans painted on them saying “No One is Illegal” and “Stop Deportations.”

It’s about a half hour trip from my home in Barmbek to the central station and then a 7 minute walk to Cafe Exil. Cafe Exil is a free and independent counseling/advice center for refugees and migrants. We connect people to organizations or lawyers that can help their case, make phone calls, or accompany them to appointments at the job center or immigration office. We are also known as a warm place with free coffee and tea so we have some “regulars” (generally non-German, homeless folks who need a place to rest for a few hours) during the colder months.

I get there around 9:45 and greet the other volunteers in the Cafe. The other men who do the vigil join me and we fold pamphlets that we will pass out as part of our demonstration. Peter arrives and we all set out to hold our banners on the darkest corner in Hamburg. This isn’t an exaggeration. The corner outside the immigration office is always in the shadows. It blocks the sun that rises behind it and the buildings across the street block it as it goes down. I find it very symbolic. On top of that it is located on a very busy, wide street that leads to the harbor which brings the wind.

Towards the end our hour-long vigil, a security guard from the immigration office comes out asking us for help / advice. There is an English speaking woman who has to go to the “Sportallee” place to apply for asylum. She is very pregnant and won’t be able to handle the stress of the complicated journey to get there. (S-Bahn, U-Bahn, bus, etc)

Peter asks what we should do. He feels it is the job of the office to look after people when they clearly cannot go on their own, as is the case here…and the case of a blind woman two weeks before. She requires a taxi, but who will/should pay? No real solution is reached and we end the vigil with the song: “You Can’t Kill the Spirit.”

Back at the Cafe I say hello to a few “regulars” and put on my jacket. I want to drop off the Meds, get lunch, and walk to MediBüro – it’s a beautiful day. Well it wasn’t in the stars. Thursdays generally do not go according to plan. A kind stranger had walked the very pregnant woman over from the immigration office. I didn’t see them come in but I saw her sitting alone on the couch. I figured it must have been the woman the security guard asked us about. I offered her something to drink. She refused. She handed me the paper the office gave her with a crude map and description of how to get to Sportallee with public transport. “I want Asyl,” she said, “I need to go here.”

Sportallee isn’t for everyone. Applying for asylum isn’t for everyone. If you don’t have a good enough (in the eyes of the state) case, you can be rejected and then be refused any future application. There are ways around it, but one has to know beforehand what they are doing, why, and how. Not easy for most people who find themselves wanting asylum. They don’t often find out until it’s too late the “could’ve, should’ve would’ves” of the situation. And they can’t be blamed either. The system is intentionally confusing and difficult so as to discourage applicants. It’s unbelievably frustrating to me and I am not even in this situation.

I discuss options with Peter. It seems this woman is mostly concerned with where she is going to sleep tonight and not what applying for asylum means. We do our best to gently ask her about the baby’s father. If he’s German she will have an easy time getting assistance. He’s not. She keeps saying she is tired and wants to go to the Sportallee. Peter made some phone calls to different shelters to see if they could take her in for a few nights before she decides what to do. He can’t find anything. He calls around for more advice. In the mean time other guests come into the cafe and I fall into my familiar role. A man comes in wanting to fill out an apartment application. Someone needs directions to another counseling center.

Peter had successfully heard from the head boss-lady at “Flucht Punkt” that we should take her to Sportallee, not to apply for asylum but for official permission to stay for humanitarian reasons. German law forbids the deportation of a pregnant woman 6 weeks before and after the birth of the child. So at least for this time she is safe and will be cared for. What happens afterwards needs to be discussed with a lawyer. She comes from a country in Africa that the state has determined is “safe” to deport folks back too. This complicates her asylum claim. We were advised to go to Sportallee, get her settled, not to discuss her country of origin, and make sure she comes to “Flucht Punkt” on Wednesday. I called a taxi while Peter looked up directions from Sportallee to “Flucht Punkt” so she would not miss her appointment.

I accompanied the woman. The ride was maybe 20 minutes long. Most of that we sat in silence I could see she was exhausted. I went over the procedure with her one more time. That we were not going to give them too much information until she had her appointment. I assured her they wouldn’t send her away so close to the due date of her baby. I said it will be fine. As soon as I said this I felt guilty. I don’t know if it will be fine. Times like this I wish I was less American-optimist and more German-realist.

It was my first time going to Sportallee. One of the guys I live with previously lived here for around 3 months. He said it was awful. It’s located in what looks like a pretty normal German, residential neighborhood. There are kids everywhere sucking on juice boxes and playing, shouting in different languages. We walk slowly from the cab (which let us out around the corner) to the main entrance. The woman I am with does not have much. A purse, a shoulder bag which is just a bigger purse, and a plastic shopping bag. I can see sandals and toiletries sticking out of it. I hold her hand as we walk up the few steps to the door. There are about five men in blue sweater vests, ties, and black pants. They are smoking and joking around with some kids. These are the security guards. They ask how they can help.

We speak in German, the woman stands patiently next to me. She doesn’t say anything; she doesn’t seem to be fully present. She is just letting everything wash over her. I tell them she is pregnant and wanting to apply for a permit to stay for humanitarian reasons. I had rehearsed this in my head on the way over. I wanted to be sure that I wouldn’t accidentally say “asylum.” The biggest guard said, “Not today.” I was confused, flustered, and angry; a full range of emotions in the half second it took for him to finish his sentence. “The office is closed, she can apply tomorrow.” They informed me she could stay the night and would get a food card and things would move forward in the morning. Then came the next question: “Where is she from?” I tried to change the subject. I said, she’s three weeks before her due date, tired, and cannot handle any more stress today. They had done this before and were not distracted. I am only talking to two men now. The younger one is smoking and asks more aggressively “Where is she from?” I hate him for smoking so close to this woman. I hate that he’s looking at me accusingly. I am scared and don’t know what to do. The other guard levels with me: “Look we can’t take her in if we don’t know where she’s from. We are not the office, but we have to know.” I level back and tell him I was advised not to disclose that until she has spoken to a lawyer.

I translate these goings on to the woman standing next to me. I realize in this moment I still don’t know her name. There is a bench and I walk her over to it. I try calling Peter for advice, he doesn’t answer his cell. I discuss it with the kinder guard a bit more and with the woman I am with and we agree to fill out the tiny form, including giving her country of origin. He tells me we want the same things for the folks here and I find myself trusting him. After a bit of a wait, they find her a key and bedding. She will not be in a normal room. She is in a container. There are about 10 containers stacked in two rows, two stories outside of the main building. They aren’t shipping containers, but more like the movable offices you see at construction sites. She’s on the second “floor.” An older guard with a gray beard shows us the way. The stairs are difficult and we go slowly together. In her room are two bunk-beds, a table, a few lockers and a single chair. There is only one other woman in this room. They do not speak the same language. She uses the toilets across the hall and I learn from the guard where the canteen is and at what time dinner is served. We settle her on the bottom bunk and I make up the bed for her. She still hasn’t said too much. She is hungry and tired. We’ve missed lunch time. I only have an apple and a banana with me. It’s hers. I help her put her things in an empty locker but put the flyer for “Flucht Punkt” on the table. I write out the German term for the permit she needs to apply for so the next day she can point to it during her interview. I also write down my cell number in case there are any problems. I hug her; remind her of her appointment on Wednesday, and leave. It feels very surreal.

I head to the bus stop and on the way call Hans who I would be working with in the MediBüro to tell him I may be late today. I also call a friend I meet through Cafe Exil. He’s a “regular” there and has been sick for over a week. I told him to go to MediBüro on Monday but he was applying for jobs and never came in. I told him I would be there today and he should come by. “Maybe.”

I change trains, get on a bus and arrive fifteen minutes before Hans. The MediBüro has just opened but there are already ten or more patients waiting in the hall. Already when I arrived, two other folks had opened the one classroom and were calling doctors. I collected some materials and began setting up the second room for when Hans would arrive. While I was waiting, I put out extra chairs in the hall for the patients. I had five minutes or so to have a cup of tea and listen to some Bob Dylan to calm down and help me transition my new roll. Its 15:30 and I have miles to go before I sleep.

What I like about working in the MediBüro is that it’s not as hectic as Cafe Exil. You get to sit down one on one (or two on one) with people and you are generally able to find a solution. They are sick, you find them the right doctor. It is relaxed and they leave happy (not always the case at the Cafe). I do a lot of the writing for Hans since his hands aren’t as steady as they once were. We only deal with the patient’s first name in order to protect their anonymity. We make an appointment, write out a letter, stamp it from MediBüro, and give them directions on how best to get there.

Even if MediBüro goes longer than expected, I leave feeling pretty good, not frazzled as is often the case when I leave the Cafe. Today we are done on time, 17:30. I am really famished and the sun is shining. I decide to walk through St. Pauli to the Caritas center to drop off the medicine and bandages that are bulging out of my back pack. There are plenty of Cafes and food stands along the way and the Drop-In Center is open 24 hours, so I don’t have to rush.

I arrived at the Caritas Drop-in around 18:30. The guy there was friendly, thanked me and I headed on towards the harbor. I sat there, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the ships, tourists, and Fischbrötchen. The sun was still out and I tried to soak up all the vitamin D I could. It was nice to be by myself, watching the crowds. But then I had enough and got on the train to go home.

The trip from Landungsbrücke to the Brot und Rosen door is about 45 minutes if the buses line up nicely. I was pretty exhausted when I got home but was happy to find group of folks in the living room watching TV. It was nice to unwind and laugh with three of my house mates before going to bed. It was a full, stressful, but ultimately good day.

Read more about Brot und Rosen

A Declaration of Love

Coffee Shop conversation

Katie Hampton (left) listening at Abrasevic.

By Katie Hampton

I spent three years and three months (2007-2010) as a BVS volunteer in OKC Abrasevic in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. I am still discovering all that those three years meant to me, but it is no exaggeration to say that it changed my life.

If I’m being completely honest, sometimes I freak out about the fact that I spent three years not earning/saving any money, or at the very least interning at some international organization which would look good on my resume. I spent a frantic year+ after BVS interning, working and not getting paid, job hunting, etc. During that time, Abrasevic, with its tiny budget, paid me TWICE! I was moved to tears by their solidarity.

But really, I would NEVER take it back. This is who I am. This is how I become who I want to be.

In Abrasevic, the most important thing is to show up and to be present. To talk to people. To make jokes. People are an end in themselves. When Arma stopped being a member of the management team, he spent even more time at Abrasevic than he had before (he had already been there ALL the TIME)—but now he was in the café talking to people, rather than up in his office working. (Nedzad, a longtime volunteer, took on his tasks.) Tina said, when we discussed it, “what’s important is being here; that’s more important than what you do here.”

[[I’m tearing up again thinking about all of them and longing to jump into a car right this minute and visit them!]]

Everyone in Abrasevic has their own artistic dream. Even the waiters are all DJs or musicians or doing street performances or graffiti. People are so supportive of dedication to artistic dreams. We’re always going to the concerts of Mostar bands to hear the same songs and going to the book promotions of Mostar (Abrasevic) poets. I also had a poem published in an Abrasevic literary journal (Kolaps) and showed my videos in the main hall.

One of the main things that I learned in Abrasevic is how important PLACES are for cities. It’s like “a room of one’s own” for urban spaces. It’s essential for Mostar to have an Abrasevic. It’s essential for every city to have neutral urban spaces that encourage people to come together. Like Italo Calvino’s book “Invisible Cities” (which I studied in-depth in a video journalism course at Abrasevic), where Marco Polo tells Kublai Khan the stories of a hundred cities, only to reveal that “all cities are Venice”; now to me, “all cities are Mostar, and must contain an Abrasevic”. When I move to new places, I am always looking for an “Abrasevic”. Of course I can never find another Abrasevic, as it is irreplaceable and unique. But in my life I combine the elements which made Abras so dear to me (solidarity, creativity, espresso) to try to live an Abrasevicy life.

There’s nothing like putting a camera in the hands of a young person. So exciting to see what they come up with. I have to do this again! My life will not be complete unless I can make videos and help young people to make videos! About Roma, skaters, beautiful ramshackle monuments, artists, poets, musicians and activists.

I learned to film and edit video footage.

I also got some experience in grant writing.

I learned about challenges in project design and implementation.

I was so inspired.

I learned about the impact of political conflict on daily life.

I was filled with hope.

– Katie Hampton, BVSer at Abrasevic from October 2007 to December 2010 (currently blogging at