Devotions (EYN Daily Link) September 13-19, 2015

DAILY LINK WITH GOD 2015EYN Devotions graphic
A Daily Devotional Guide from the
EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)

EYN leaders in Nigeria believe prayer is one of the most important ways to support the Nigerian people and the Church.  These daily devotions were written by EYN members and published by the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. Reading them daily is a powerful way we can be in solidarity and connect with our brothers and sisters caught in this crisis.  EYN’s daily devotional for 2015 will be posted a week at a time on this blog, appearing mid-week for the following week. More information about the crisis can be found at

Click on this link for Devotions Sept 13-19, 2015

Susan’s Story

Written by Janet Crago

Written by Janet Crago

It was a very special Sunday called “Children’s Sunday”.  All the children’s classes prepare presentations and songs for the worship service.  Many parents were there who didn’t attend regularly.  It was also a combined service.  On an ordinary Sunday they have two worship services, one in Hausa (northern Nigeria’s market language) and one in Kamwe (the language of the local people), but on this special Sunday, they combined the two.  The church was full to overflowing.

Susan was surprised when the pastor cut his sermon so short.  She was more surprised when the church secretary ran out of church.  Within seconds he was back yelling, “Everybody run, the BH are coming”.

Susan's Destroyed Church

Susan’s Destroyed Church

Everyone dispersed in a different direction.  Susan ran into the bush.  After some time she decided to go back home.  She found her daughter Rose and Rose joined her.  She also discovered that her husband had taken one car.  Her two mother-in-laws were also there.  Susan’s husband Mark had a Muslim father who had two wives.  Her mother-in-laws both have infirmities.  One can see but not walk while the other can walk but her vision is seriously unpaired.  They are a team.  They help each other.

Shortly after Susan arrived home, they heard some of the BH banging on the front door.  Susan and her daughter Rose, ran out the back door leaving her mother-in-laws at home.  They jumped the back fence and ran into the bush.  They walked to the next village where they found her husband Mark with their car.  He had also driven through the bush to get there.  He drove through corn rows.  They picked up an old woman who stated that the car was now her home and she wouldn’t leave it.  A local family gave them food.  They spent the night in the car.

In the morning they picked up others who had fled BH.  One woman was very distraught.  She had gone to church in the morning leaving her baby and two older children at home.  When she ran from the church she did not know what had happened to her children.  They ended up with 11 people and 3 babies in a car whose maximum is 7.  They drove to the river crossing.  The river was swollen with the rains and the car could not drive through it.  They had to abandon the car and take canoes across.  There were many children at the crossing who also ran from church.  Susan paid the passage for many children so they could reach the other side on the canoe ferries.  Then they hiked to another village about 8 miles away.

People in this village helped them with food.  Susan bought some cloth for the children so they could have clean clothes.  Susan is the ZME (Zumuznta Mata Ekklesiyar, or Women’s Fellowship) Director.  The ZME has a bus, with a driver, to transport women for meetings.  Susan called the driver to come get all of them.  He came, and late the next day they all rode to Yola, a trip of about 120 miles. There were 27 in the bus, including 9 children.  These children had relatives in Yola, and it was safe in there.

When she arrived in Yola, Susan was getting multiple phone calls from people who were stranded in another village after they ran from BH.  They expained that they didn’t have transport money.  Susan would talk to the drivers and promise to pay the transport when they arrived in Yola.  Since she has been the Principal of John Guli Bible School for 17 years, and she is also the ZME Director, the drivers agreed to transport the fleeing people with her assurance of payment on their arrival.

During this time, Susan was making lots of calls.  Because Nigerians need to purchase cell phone time in advance, she had many people call her and give her the necessary security numbers to increase her calling time.  These people had already paid for the security numbers.  This effort made it possible to call the childrens’ parents, and many others who needed to be contacted.

Susan in Jos

Susan in Jos

Susan stayed two days in a friend’s house in Yola where 100 others were also staying.  Her brother then invited her to stay in a house in Abuja.  That is where she went for some time.  She’s now located in Jos, where she is the Director of Women’s Ministry for EYN.  Another person has been appointed as Principal of John Guli Bible School.

Susan says she learned some things from this experience that she wants to share.

  • It is good to be relational.  The relationships she developed were key to the safe escape of her and many others.
  • She now knows that she is not better than anyone else who was escaping.
  • Life is not all about wealth.  She says that life is more than riches.
  • She says that she’s had a good life, but has now been tested. She says that until you are tested, you can only imagine what you might do, you don’t know for sure what you will do.

The “After” Stories:

 The woman who went to church and left her children at home found out that a neighbor woman rescued her children and fled to Cameroon with them.  Cameroon is the neighboring country to the east.  The children are safe.

The old woman who said the car was her home stayed in the car by the river.  The fate of the woman is not clear.

Susan’s mother-in-laws are both alive, but some local townspeople who joined BH abused them.  They came morning and evening and lashed the old women.  They gave them 20 lashes each.  The BH were actually somewhat good to them.  They came frequently to take chickens from Susan’s layers (she had 1000 layers).  Occasionally they would bring the old women some other food.

What Susan and her family lost:

One car was abandoned at the river.  It has now burned.  Another car left at home was smashed.  Her 1000 laying chickens are gone.  Her and her husband’s books were burned.  She is living in a rented home and doesn’t know whether she can go back to her home village.  Her husband is going back home soon to assess the situation.

The children are all with relatives or with their parents in a safer location.


Iran and the JCPOA

Focus is shifting in Washington as President Obama has enough congressional support to sustain a veto against a resolution of disapproval for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that aims to reduce Iran’s nuclear program.

Though a resolution of disapproval could be overturned, supporters of the deal have announced intent garner even more support for the deal, potentially saving ink in the president’s veto pen. If successful, the United States would send a stronger message to the international community of its intent to support diplomacy in the Middle East.

As mentioned in a previous post, the COB has shown support for the JCPOA, and we do this primarily out of our heritage as a peace church with a peace witness. With approval for the JCPOA in sight, time needs to be taken to discuss what it means for us as a church to show support for this deal. Equally important, it is important to understand what it does not mean.

This deal only addresses nonproliferation in Iran – not Iran’s support of terrorist organizations, its covert attempts to destabilize regimes, nor its aggression towards Israel. This narrowness, however, is not an inadequacy of the deal since it accomplishes the goal of thoroughly diminishes Iran’s nuclear capabilities. These outlying issues with the Iranian regime have led some critics to fear that Iran’s sanctions relief will help Tehran fuel more of these illicit programs and question Iran’s commitment to following the deal altogether.

Distrust in Iran, after all, is why the US does not want Iran to have nuclear weapons in the first place – hence the comprehensive regulations in what has been called “the most robust, intrusive, multilateral nonproliferation agreement ever negotiated.” The strength of this monitoring program is endorsed by 29 of the nation’s top scientists, stating that the deal’s safeguards would prevent Iran from covertly developing a nuclear weapon.

Curbing Iran’s nuclear capacity in this zone of mistrust is the primary talking point of the JCPOA, but its capacity to actually build trust is potentially more important. US relations with Iran and the rest of the region automatically assume tension, especially because of the constant meddling of the US military in the Middle East. While simple nonproliferation is noble, the multilateral approach of the JCPOA reinforces the value of diplomacy as a pathway to holistic and lasting peace.

Said a letter from international relations scholars, “While the JCPOA is primarily a non-proliferation agreement that successfully closes off all weaponization pathways in the Iranian nuclear program, it carries with it significant peace dividends by making diplomacy and dialogue available for conflict resolution – a necessary step to tackle all of the region’s sources of tensions, be they terrorism, sectarianism, or unilateralism.”

It is here that the values that Brethren stand for can be found in the Iran deal. The 1988 Annual Conference stated, “The Brethren understand peace as something more than merely the silence of guns and bombs; it is also the presence of justice, the practice of mutuality, and the process of reconciliation.” It may sound like brash optimism to suggest that this deal paves the way to reconciliation, but to assert that walking away from the deal does this job better is ludicrous.

The real question is: Would the world be better without the deal?

One would be hard-pressed to say yes. Refusing the deal means rejecting the most comprehensive nuclear monitoring regime in history. With no restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, Iran’s “breakout” point would quickly draw near, especially as international sanctions fall away. Such a scenario almost guarantees that Iran would develop a nuclear weapon, despite critics’ attempts to suggest we have better options. Once these positions are analyzed, however, it is clear that the JCPOA is the best course of action.

A moderate argument for walking away suggests returning to the table to negotiate a new deal, one that further restricts the flow of sanctions relief so that Iran is guaranteed to not fund terrorist plots. However, the reality of returning to the table with the international support of the EU and two US rivals, China and Russia, is very slim. Without the support of the international community, the US would be hard-pressed to broker a deal that is nearly as comprehensive.

The same argument same can be made against those that think any deal is out of the question. Such critics would propose that imposing stricter sanctions would be more effective in crippling Iran’s nuclear program. After all, sanctions have already made Iran desperate enough to have a conversation, suggesting further sanctions would cripple Iran until it has no choice but to fold on its nuclear program. Opponents of the deal have threatened that, since the JCPOA will survive a resolution of disapproval, later legislation will be put forth that will reinstate sanctions and put pressure back on Iran. The problem with this logic is that US sanctions against Iran have been supported by other international sanctions. Since walking away from the deal, initially or through post hoc legislation, means the US would lose international support, US sanctions would not only prove increasingly meaningless and would certainly unravel.

This leaves opponents with a third option: call for direct US military intervention. This position is the easiest to denounce given the deplorable track record of US intervention in the Middle East. Ignoring the diplomatic option is also challenges the Brethren commitment to nonviolence and promotion of sustainable peace.

In short, there is no viable alternative for this deal. This deal not only reduces the chance of Iran using nuclear weapons against the United States, but even more importantly, this deal helps keep the imagined need for the US military intervention in Iran from becoming a reality. Despite the flaws of the deal, it truly is a step forward for US relations with Iran and the rest of the region. The JCPOA shows a commitment to diplomacy and meaningful engagement with world leaders. While Iran has stated that its policy will not change once the deal takes effect, this show of good faith by the US and other nations can pave the way to a more sustainable peace as the Iranian regime and the political climate in the Middle East changes in the next 15 years.The future cannot be predicted, but the light that shines from it is brighter under this deal.

Office of Public Witness
Church of the Brethren
Washington, DC

Being an Offering

Lauren Seganos preaching at National Junior High Conference in July. Photo by Glenn Riegel

Lauren Seganos preaching at National Junior High Conference in July.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

A sermon by Lauren Seganos for the National Jr. High Conference 2015

“Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life—and place it before God as an offering” (Romans 12:1-2, The Message).

What comes to mind when you hear the word “offering”? I think of the offering plates we pass during worship. Children drop in pennies or quarters. Adults write checks to their congregation. And these offerings are collected to pay the pastor’s salary, the church air conditioning bill, or for a rented van so the youth can go to National Junior High Conference.

Now imagine what it would look like if, instead of dropping money into the offering plate, you hopped into the plate yourself? Imagine sitting in the plate, your knees bent to your chest, and grabbing the sides of the plate with each hand. People pass you along, probably giving you strange looks, and the experience reminds you of crowd surfing.

What a ridiculous thing to imagine, being in the offering plate with envelopes and cash. But what might it look like to be an offering to God? How might that work?

Growing up, I loved to sing, and from what I could tell, the people around me enjoyed it too. I grabbed every opportunity to do it—in school and community choirs, in school musicals, at school basketball games, and at church. Singing was something that brought me joy.

But in junior high and high school, a friend always sang better, getting the part whenever we auditioned for musicals or solos in concerts. No matter how hard I tried, she always performed better than me. Once, I was asked to sing at a coffee house, but out of spite or pride, I refused. “I’m not as good as her, so why sing at all?” I thought. I wasn’t special or unique, just an ordinary, average singer.

After college, I realized that even though I won’t sing for a career or be the best, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t sing at all. Today, you’ll find me singing while I’m doing everything, especially while driving my car or cleaning my apartment. I know now that singing is one of the best ways to nourish my soul and praise God by using my gift.

Maybe you can relate. Is there something that nourishes you and gives you deep joy? Maybe you do it every day: like kicking around a soccer ball, writing stories, or drawing. Maybe you make people laugh, or help others feel included and loved. These are gifts God has given you. And it’s not about being the best. It’s about using those talents every day, in ordinary ways, to bring joy to yourself, to others, and to God. This is what it looks like to be an offering to God.

Lauren Seganos is a licensed minister at Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, Pa.. To hear the full version of this sermon visit  . Learn more about National Junior High Conference and Youth and Young Adult ministries at or support them today at .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)


Devotions (EYN Daily Link) September 6 – 12, 2015

DAILY LINK WITH GOD 2015EYN Devotions graphic
A Daily Devotional Guide from the
EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)

EYN leaders in Nigeria believe prayer is one of the most important ways to support the Nigerian people and the Church.  These daily devotions were written by EYN members and published by the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. Reading them daily is a powerful way we can be in solidarity and connect with our brothers and sisters caught in this crisis.  EYN’s daily devotional for 2015 will be posted a week at a time on this blog, appearing mid-week for the following week. More information about the crisis can be found at

Click on this link for Devotions September 6-12, 2015

Confession, Repentance and Commitment to End Racism

“Racism will not end with the passage of legislation alone; it will also require a change of heart and thinking. This is an effort which the faith community must lead, and be the conscience of the nation. We will call upon every church, temple, mosque and faith communion to make their worship service on this Sunday a time to confess and repent for the sin and evil of racism, this includes ignoring, tolerating and accepting racism and to make a commitment to end racism by the example of our lives and actions.”
-Invitation from the African Methodist Episcopal Church

More information and resources:

The shooting in Charleston, more than 500 miles away has left me in a state of shock. Coming out of it, I have turned to prayer. Pray. Pray. Pray. I keep returning to prayer because I don’t know what to do about the pervasive, racialized violence in our nation. I wish I had the vision of a community leader, but instead I am closing my eyes and clasping my hands. Pray. Pray. Pray. Fortunately, being part of a body of Christ means that I don’t always have to be the leader. Sometimes I can be another part of the body (say the elbow or littlest toe) while other people are leadership. Right now, I am grateful to the leadership of the AME Church.

As they celebrate their bicentennial anniversary, the African Methodist Episcopal Church is also still grieving the attack on the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. Founded because of racism and injustice, the AME is committed to leading the nation to move the nation to face, confront, and act on the issue of race. As part of their celebrations and grief, they are asking that every church, temple, synagogue, mosque, and place of worship focus on race, while asking every pastor, rabbi, imam, and other leaders to preach on race, reminded that out of one blood, God created all of us to dwell together in unity.

I am hoping that some of our congregations will join in prayer and confession. Also, I encourage you to reach out to the AME congregation in your community with a letter of support and, if possible, join them in any planned public witness on this important issue.

As Director of Intercultural Ministries, Gimbiya Kettering seeks to continue and expand the conversation and ministry work for those working in intercultural and cross-cultural settings. To join the conversation leave a comment or email her directly at