Walking Together

One Great Hour of Sharing 2016

One Great Hour of Sharing 2016

Adapted from a sermon starter by José Francisco Morales Torres, director of Pastoral Formation at Disciples Seminary Foundation

“Where you go I will go; and where you stay I will stay” (Ruth 1:16, NIV).

The story of Ruth is a beautiful narrative about resilience and accompaniment. Rendered vulnerable by the deaths of their husbands and the natural disaster of famine, Ruth and Naomi clung to one another for comfort and strength.

As we read the book of Ruth, we see both a human story and a God story, the former “incarnating” the latter. As a human story, we read about the spirituality of solidarity. In the divine realm, we read of God’s redemption, which is mirrored in human action.

Redemption is a sign of God being with us. The divine act of redemption can be seen in the sacrificial commitment Ruth makes to Naomi to go where she goes and stay where she stays. Through Ruth, God is revealed in the very act of accompanying the most vulnerable in society—both then and now. This commitment to walk together is good news for a globalizing world that so often separates people groups into “them” and “us.”

As God walks with those who are vulnerable, we see God as we walk together with them as well. Consequently, we, like the outcast, come face-to-face with our own need and vulnerability; we need them to see God in our midst. Walking with those in need is an opportunity for us to reignite our faith and reframe our humanity in our encounter with the faith and humanity of another. We are able to recognize the transforming power of solidarity, not just for “them” but for “us.” Through the eyes of accompaniment, there is only a united “us!”

One Great Hour of Sharing is a special opportunity for you and your congregation to walk with those in need through the work of the Church of the Brethren. When you give to this special offering, you support Core Ministries like Brethren Volunteer Service, Congregational Life Ministries, Global Mission and Service, the Office of Ministry, and the Office of Public Witness. You also support the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Global Food Crisis Fund. With your help, we accompany those in need across the country and around the world. As we walk together, we recognize God among us and receive strength for the journey ahead.

The suggested date for One Great Hour of Sharing is March 20. Learn more and find worship resources for the offering at www.brethren.org/oghs or give today at www.brethren.org/giveoghs .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)


accepting the giftIn January, each EYN church usually chooses a theme for the year. It is based on Scripture and a banner is made and hung in the church for that year.  This year at the request of Dr. Samuel Dali and EYN leaders, every church has been asked to use the same theme; Accepting God’s Gift of Grace. The theme is based on 2 Corinthians 6:1 “Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain.” (RSV) The theme is designed to remind churches that there is a responsibility involved when we accept God’s gift of grace. Individuals and churches are encouraged to continue as ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20) and to spread the good news of God’s grace to all. Dr. Samuel Dali is encouraging EYN to make the most of the new opportunities brought about by the insurgency of Boko Haram. As EYN members have been scattered across Nigeria, the hope is that they continue to share about Jesus Christ and bring the message of peace and reconciliation wherever they are located.

Banner in Abuja

Banner in Abuja

EYN’s Continuing Challenge with Education

Julie Heisey in Nigeria

Julie Heisey in Nigeria

As part of the Take 10/Tell 10 Group from the Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren visiting Nigeria in January 2016, Julie Heisey was graciously given the opportunity to interview Safina Doma, EYN Director of Education, and listen to
her story.

Education in government schools, particularly in Nigeria’s northeastern states, is of poor quality due to corruption, crumbling infrastructure and lack of teacher training. As a result, parents banding together had been sending their children to
schools operated by EYN which at least was able to provide Christian education
not allowed in public schools. Dr. Safiya has become Director of Education at a
time when the Boko-Haram insurgency, opposed to both Christian and Muslim
education, is placing great pressure on 45 EYN schools. Dr. Safiya expressed
“deep pain in my heart and tears” when she visits schools like the one at the
Stephanos Camp for Internally Displaced Persons where 100 children have only
one trained volunteer teacher.

Dr. Safiya

Dr. Safiya

Dr. Safiya has been visiting as many schools as she can, gathering materials that were left behind after Boko-Haram attacks and encouraging school staff who
have not received salaries in the last year. This has taken great courage. In June 2015, Dr. Safiya started out toward Yola with a car and driver visiting EYN
headquarters and many schools. In Mubi the head of the school had lost her husband and Safiya prayed with her in her home. At the EYN Comprehensive (secondary) School she asked students to write an essay on how Boko-Haram has affected their education. In an attempt to reach Chibok her car was stopped from proceeding, but that didn’t stop Safiya. Telling her driver to stay with the car for his own safety, Safiya said, “I bought a box of water and started walking, wondering what I would say if I encountered any terrorists.” Upon arriving at Chibok she found that the school staff had not seen anyone from EYN for one year. They were greatly encouraged by her presence.

As past coordinator of Women Theologians, Dr. Sfiya helped to organize the
workshop on trauma healing and vocational training in Yola in November 2015.
The women were encouraged to forgive their attackers, to reach out to others, and share what they have. Safina has also provided support and encouragement to a colleague who lost her husband and three children in an attack. Her own wedding, planned for last fall, was relocated because of an attack which “scattered all my plans”, but it went on in a safer location. She has received support and encouragement from her new husband, a
retired pastor and former collegue at ECWA seminary.

In the midst of all the suffering and hardship, Safina sees God’s spirit working.
She quoted the words to a song about “blessings of God coming down like
raindrops to those who love God.” Among those blessings she includes:

• opportunities to reflect on the meaning of life, (one’s place in the world, why
God has allowed this suffering and the challenge of unanswered prayers.)
• God has helped many people to escape.
• God has provided “what we need. If God doesn’t provide it, we don’t need
• Although attacked, Kulp Bible College and EYN headquarters were not
burned and some things were able to be salvaged.
• Unexpected help came from the Church of the Brethren in America inspired
by God. Although the millions of nira that have been contributed by
Americans are important, they are not as important as the people who have
come. EYN will be stronger because of the “fellowship of the feet.”

The next challenges Dr. Safiya sees are praying for the insurgents and telling the
world about how the girl-child, made in the image of God, is affected by rape and
becoming sex slaves. She asked what will become of the resulting babies these
girls will have? How can they, with already lowered status, help their children?
How can we prevent this from becoming an ongoing multi-generational tragedy?
Dr. Safiya has written an article about the The Girl Child: Bobo-Haram’s New
Weapon of War. She has plans to publish a book on the subject in two years.
We have listened to the deep caring, dedication, faith and courage in Safiya’s
story. As she has received inspiration from the presence of the Take 10/Tell 10
Group in Nigeria, her story and the stories of many Nigerian Brethren like her are
bringing inspiration and renewed faith to the church in America.

2014 NYC shirts put to good use

On January 22nd, the School we sponsor in Jos (Favored Sisters Christian Foundation) had a soccer game. They divided into teams with one teacher each.  Team Mathew (LOVE) and Team Mark (PEACE).

Elizabethtown group plays soccer

Elizabethtown group plays soccer

The idea of an organized game came after the Elizabethtown group visited the school and arranged a soccer match between the students and the visitors. Everyone had so much fun; the school leaders decided to make soccer matches an ongoing activity. Nigerians are very good improvising and using what is available so they had no trouble making the newly donated NYC 2014 shirts into uniforms. Team Mathew (Love) scored 3 goals while Team Mark (Peace) scored 1 goal.

FUN was had by all! Thank you Jeff Lennard,  Marketing and Sales Director, for donating the old NYC shirts.

FSCF school soccer team FSCF school soccer team2

Sharing the story

Alexander Gee Jr. and Jonathan Shively sharing  stories at the 2015 National Older Adult Conference. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Alexander Gee Jr. and Jonathan Shively sharing
stories at the 2015 National Older Adult Conference.
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

By Josh Brockway, director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship

At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus shares the “Great Commission”— “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a).

Some highlight this as a command to evangelize, and they are right. Brethren have also pointed to this passage for our triune practice of baptism, and they are right. But neither is the whole picture.

What is profound about this simple passage is the gift Christ gives his followers. There on the mount, in his final earthly moments, Jesus entrusted his disciples with the full story of God’s Good News. It took them a while (50 days, to be exact) to really understand Jesus’ commandment, but they became stewards of the story nonetheless. And they did it—going into all nations, teaching what Jesus taught, and baptizing people by the thousands.

This bearing of the Jesus story has carried on through generations of disciples. Each of us can list the people who taught us significant lessons about God—the family member who exemplified unconditional love; the Sunday school teacher who finally made sense of the resurrection; the camp counselor who listened to questions of faith; and the spiritual friend who boldly asked about your prayer life.

As Brethren, we cherish the stories of our past. We love to tell the stories of how radical acts of service and peacemaking grew into lasting movements within the wider church. We herald our own catalogue of saints, those who embodied core teachings of the Brethren with courage and grace. However, telling these stories is only part of the task we have been given. We only tell half the story if we miss the long line of connections to the actual story of Jesus. Our cherished Brethren stories are ones about radical and compassionate acts of following Jesus. And as Peter says, we should be quick to tell why these stories are the root of the hope we have within us (1 Peter 3:15). For the same Spirit that was at work in Jesus and in the Brethren saints is also at work in us now.

Sisters and brothers, we are not merely a peace church. We are not even a servant people. Rather, we are followers of Jesus, in whom we see the full nature and plan of God. We follow Jesus, who rejected the sword and took up the towel. We are peacemakers and servants, not because of previous Brethren, but because of Jesus who entrusted his story to us. Out of obedience to Jesus as teacher and savior, we go into the world as peacemakers and servants. It is then that we are stewards of the Jesus story. And as we go into the world, we are to share that story, making disciples through baptism and teaching, through service and making peace.

Learn how the story of Jesus is shared through the ministries of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org . Support our Core Ministries today at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)