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.)