“I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” -Psalm 9:1
Even as the seasons change, we give thanks to the Lord wholeheartedly for you and for the wonderful deeds God reveals through the missions and ministries of the Church of the Brethren.
Your prayerful and financial support continue to sustain the work that we do together. As we walk by faith and go with God, we reveal Jesus in the neighborhood by: encouraging brothers and sisters near and far, feeding and sheltering those in need, entering into conversations to allow for healing from systematic brokenness, and serving others.
Thank you for your generous partnership in our ministries. May you have a very blessed Thanksgiving.
With gratitude and hope,
David A. Steele General Secretary and the staff and volunteers of the Church of the Brethren
By Matt DeBall, coordinator of Mission Advancement communications
“Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.” -Psalm 146:5, NIV
The world is full of people looking for meaning. Whether in a place of scarcity or sufficiency, people are asking questions—in reflection or conversation—about how to thrive, how to succeed, how to find satisfaction in life.
The search for a path to navigate the challenges of life is not new. People from multiple nations from the ancient Near East (before the common era in the region now known as the Middle East) recognized the God of heaven as the source of the good gifts of life and wondered how to please this God. As the people of Israel were chosen by Yahweh and given the life-giving and life-guiding Torah, the path to live in harmony with God, all people, and all of creation became more clear.
Even with the way to life outlined, Israel still experienced seasons of confusion and struggle. Along the way, they needed reminders about how to orient themselves in the world and with God in order to find help in times of need and at all times to have hope. As we look to Psalm 146, we find a hymn for Israel that now serves as a song of instruction for us concerning how we praise God well—with our voices but also with our lives. This hymn reveals two markers of how we affirm that our hope is in the Lord.
First, we declare our hope in the Lord by putting our trust in God. There are many leaders, causes, and organizations vying for our attention, and some of them are worthy of it. With November elections wrapping up, we remember how it is a healthy practice for us to engage in the political process as we feel inclined. Nonetheless, the Psalmist calls us to put our ultimate hope and trust in God regardless of who we vote for or what groups we affiliate with.
Within the Church of the Brethren, we point to God as the help that each of us needs. We welcome people from all walks of life rather than use human-made markers of division. In all facets of our life together, we strive to declare our full trust in God rather than in leaders who can fail us and systems that are imperfect. We worship God, individually and corporately, by nurturing hope in God in heads and hearts and also revealing trust in God through our voices and hands.
Second, we declare our hope in God through caring for the vulnerable. We know that God is the defender and provider of the overlooked, the outcast, and the oppressed. We also remember the words of Jesus to love God and to love others as an extension of our love for God (Matthew 22:37-40). As a result, we seek to be present with the vulnerable and attentive to their needs. When people are abandoned or afflicted, we seek to be present with them—that they may see the love and provision of God, and together, we may see the restoring work of God.
The Church of the Brethren is committed to continuing the work of Jesus and being a caring presence in neighborhoods near and far. It’s missions and ministries nurture faith for people of all ages, accompany communities through recovery from disaster or violence, and build relationships to navigate life in community. Wherever people are asking questions of meaning and purpose, we seek to be present, to listen, and to respond. Through our lives and the work we do together, we proclaim our hope is in the Lord.
On Giving Tuesday, November 29, we will sing again of our hope in God and how the Lord sustains the work of the Church of the Brethren. We also give thanks for you and for the ways that we serve together. Learn more about our faith-building and life-changing ministries at www.brethren.org/greatthings or support them today at www.brethren.org/givingtuesday.
By Eric Miller, director of Global Missions for the Church of the Brethren
“Look at the nations and see! Be astonished! Be astounded! For a work is being done in your days that you would not believe if you were told.” – Habakkuk 1:5
What comes to mind when you think about Church of the Brethren missions and missionaries? What sort of work have we done together? Do you know how we have an impact around the world?
Reading documents in the archives, it is easy to see the tension between evangelism and service in Brethren missions of the past, but the two goals were never really at odds. Brethren missionaries went to serve God and to care for people, not to earn their way into heaven or score points with God. They preached the Gospel and lived it. Frank Crumpacker walked from village to village preaching. Howard Sollenberger collected supplies and medicine for people suffering from poverty and war. They built churches, hospitals, schools, and even a major road. Seventy years after the last missionary left, people still remember. Loving God and neighbor matters. Making disciples takes time. We baptize people into a church to join with us as members of the body of Christ. We may fall short, but we are not doing it just for show. We may not always see the results of our work, but we know if we are faithful God will bring a good harvest.
Working in Global Missions, I hear variations on this theme: we know Jesus cares because you care. You gave us a cup of water when we were thirsty. You stayed with us. Our global Church of the Brethren family is strongly evangelical. They love to share the gospel and plant churches. They also reach out to the downtrodden in their own communities. In Rwanda they worship side-by-side with the often-overlooked Btwa people and partner with them in farming. In Venezuela, they take boats up the river into the jungle to worship with indigenous sisters and brothers. In the Dominican Republic, the neighborhood churches reach out to the sick, elderly, and poor who live nearby. In South Sudan, after our country director Athanasus Ungang was wrongly imprisoned, he started a prison ministry that continues after his release and exoneration.
To be clear, we have not been perfect. We are a small church that offers Jesus, what we have, and our friendship. I have seen what impact our small church has made through our faithfulness, in communities that remember our love decades later. We may sometimes feel pressure to do more, to close a deal of faith today, but ultimately we aim to build churches on strong foundations that will endure and glorify God. May we continue to share the love of Jesus with all people and be willing to accept the gifts they share in return.
Did you know the Church of the Brethren has partnerships and programs in all of the following countries? Brazil, Burundi, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan, Spain, Uganda, Venezuela, Vietnam
“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~1 Thessalonians 1:3
It is hard for me to fathom that this year marks my 10th year serving with the Global Food Initiative (GFI). Time passes quickly. As I reflect on the many changes in the past 10 years, some stick out. The GFI now counts solid partnerships in 12 countries and grants sent to a total of 23 countries in the past decade. Through your generosity, allocations totaling nearly $1.7 million are continuing to help families around the globe through generations of animals, fruit trees that bear more food with each passing year, and increased yields of vegetables and crops grown with improved farming techniques gained through numerous GFI-supported training activities.
One constant during my time in this position is the remarkable faithfulness of GFI supporters like you. Through economic downturns, pandemics, and political turmoil, people who care about hunger in this world, give and give and give again. As I travel, I hear the words of gratitude shared by GFI’s international partners and I wish you could hear them too. It is always humbling to be your representative and a reflection of your love wherever I go for the GFI.
Last year due to many worthy requests, the GFI balance fell to its lowest level in my time in this role; however, we were able to supply funding to all those projects and through your generosity, God supplied more than enough to return the GFI to a place where we can meet this year’s challenges. High food prices around the world stemming from manmade disasters (warfare, climate change, and trade embargoes, to name a few) have once again placed the greatest burden on those who can least afford them.
On a recent Sunday in church, a friend asked me if I find any hope when I visit places like Haiti, Honduras, or Nigeria. Without hesitation, I shared how I am inspired by the boldness of Christian servants to share their faith in word and action even as they endure extreme difficulty in their own lives. Recipients of GFI grants understand that the funds are coming from churches and individuals in the US and not a large organization or government program. I believe that personal touch makes a difference in the reverence with which the gifts are received. It certainly does for me. Thank you for being part of this important, hope-giving ministry.
By Claire Schadler, pen pal with the Death Row Support Project (DRSP) of the Church of the Brethren
For the past year, I’ve been a pen pal with a death row inmate in the Florida prison system. I didn’t know what to expect when I started, but I didn’t care what crime my pen pal had committed. I originally needed to decide beforehand whether I was ok with writing to someone who had committed a serious crime. Once I made that decision, I signed up.
Even though I had made that decision, I still Googled my pen pal’s name. I read newspaper articles about him and watched CCTV footage of one of the crimes he committed. It wasn’t easy to see. But, looking him up didn’t change my conviction that the death penalty is wrong, that he doesn’t deserve to be treated the way he is being treated, and that if being my pen pal provides him with one glimmer of reprieve, then this experience will have been worthwhile.
My first email to him, I was more formal than I tend to be in my everyday life. His first letter to me had none of the formality that mine had. He told me to call him by the nickname that his family uses, chatted about himself, and ended the email by asking me why I had signed up for DRSP. His first email was this refreshing breath of directness, honesty, and sweetness. I wanted to answer his question with the same tone so that he understood my intentions for being a part of this organization. My response to him took time. I wanted to strike the right tone, and doing that required me to think.
Then, I didn’t hear from him. Trying to be patient, I let time pass until I realized that I had messed up the payment method for the email system and hadn’t actually sent my email. When I heard back from him, he was having internet problems. Over the past year, he often starts his emails with an apology about his tablet device or Wi-Fi. Recently, he wrote, “Sorry for such a delay in response, I haven’t been in the right state of mind lately and didn’t want to email you with a depressed state of mind but I’m feeling a little better now.” Of course, there could be any number of reasons that he can’t get back to me.
I’ve been told that people in prison just want pen pals to get something from the person on the outside. I was worried about that. My pen pal talked to me about his money concerns, about his mother not being able to afford anything for him, and about not having a lot of food. But, he has never once, in over a year, asked me for anything. Around Christmas, I sent him money for a Christmas basket that he said he was hoping he could get from his mom. He didn’t expect it from me or ask for more or do anything other than thank me.
Most recently, we decided we would start a book club together. He said he liked action thrillers and told me a few authors that he likes. I bought two books, not realizing I needed to send his book to him directly from a third-party seller. I asked Dina at DRSP for some advice about sending books, and she told me about Hamilton Books, which was cheap and included a section in the shipping address to put an inmate’s ID number. I just sent a copy off to him and hope we can jump into a fictional world soon.
I’ve had such a fulfilling year writing to my pen pal. Sometimes it’s hard, and I feel like I’m talking too much about my life. Sometimes, I feel overly privileged because I tell him about the places I have lived and the countries I have traveled to. Sometimes, I overthink what I can ask him or what I should talk about. Sometimes, I don’t hear from him for weeks. Sometimes, I don’t have time to write him back. Sometimes, I think about the Google search I did when I first received his name.
But, after a year, I think about those things less and less. I write my responses more easily, more naturally. We talk about tattoos and New York City and my job and dogs and art and friendship and Florida and my husband and his mom and his possible resentencing and exercise and food. I send him photographs of the mountains where I live. He also calls me “Ms. Claire,” and signs off his emails with “your friend.”
By Matt DeBall, coordinator of Mission Advancement communications
If you could pick the weather for a perfect day, what would it be? Perhaps you love the warmth and sunshine of the summer. Or maybe the cooler temperatures and breezes of the fall are more to your liking. In any case, it would be lovely if we could reside in a place and season with wonderful weather all the time, but unfortunately the skies don’t always offer good news. And even on days with perfect conditions, there can still be storms of health, emotion, or thought that stir within us. Just as we need homes that can endure the weather, so also do we need lives that are weather-proof.
On one occasion (as found in Matthew 8:23-27), the disciples encountered a storm while sailing. As fishermen, some of them previously had experienced poor conditions on the Sea of Galilee, which was vulnerable to quick-forming storms. Nonetheless, the severity of the wind and waves on that day was reflected in the height of their fear and their urgency to ask Jesus for help. Just like the disciples, it’s natural to worry; however, do we let the storms amplify our anxieties or do we see our difficulties as an opportunity to call upon the Lord? As we recall the experience of the disciples on the raging seas that day, Jesus reveals two reasons why we can face any storm and accompany others through them.
First, we can face any storm because Jesus is present. As the disciples endured the storm, so also did Jesus. There isn’t a struggle we face that the Lord doesn’t face with us. Like a comforting friend in a time of need, Jesus is right next to us through it all. Even when conditions continue to give us concern, Jesus is available to hear us and to help us.
The second reason we can face any storm is because Jesus is powerful. As the disciples called upon Jesus for help, it is as if they believed that the Lord was capable of more than what they had witnessed. Jesus first attended to the concerns of the disciples and then addressed the chaos around them. With the same power that God used to bring all life into being, Jesus spoke into the storm and restored peace—to creation and to his companions.
As the body of Christ, we are called to care for others as the Lord cares for us. Our mission is to be present with those who are vulnerable and hurting, and to allow the power of Jesus to flow through us to bring comfort and hope.
It’s a privilege to hear how Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children’s Disaster Services prepare volunteers to be present with people who have survived natural disasters or endured trauma from violence. It’s a blessing to hear how Brethren Volunteer Service volunteers and representatives for the Office of Global Mission share and receive love as neighbors in communities near and far. It’s wonderful to behold Discipleship Ministries, the Office of Ministry, and the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy as they inspire leaders of many places and people of all ages to live into the restorative work of God that continues through both good and bad days. Your support of the missions and ministries of the Church of the Brethren allows the presence and power of Jesus to go out into all of the world and make a difference in people’s lives—both immediately and for eternity.
While some days offer beautiful weather, others are marked by storms. While it is natural to worry, every concern is an opportunity to call upon the Lord and see what he will do. Indeed, we can face each and every storm that comes our way because the Lord is present and powerful. May our faith in Jesus give us strength to find peace—and to share it—no matter the weather.
A theme reflection for the 2022 Mission Offering by Chris Elliott, pastor from Pennsylvania who recently visited Rwanda as a representative of the Office of Global Mission
“Everywhere—from east to west— praise the name of the Lord.” ~Psalm 113:3, NLT
Such joyful words that flow from the psalmist’s pen! “Everywhere, everyone—praise the name of the Lord!” Psalm 113 begins and ends with “Praise the Lord!”
The Psalms in general run the gamut of human emotion, from the deepest sorrow to the most exuberant praise, with Psalm 113 on the latter end of that spectrum. For me, as one coming from a quiet worship setting in North American Christendom, it has been stretching to experience worship services among our sisters and brothers in Latin America and Africa.
What strikes me most in this passage, aside from the obvious call to joyful (maybe even giddy) praise of the Lord, is the universality of its application. “Everywhere—from east to west,” not unlike the message we find in Romans 1, when Paul reminds us that all of nature cries out for us to recognize and exalt the Creator. No one is excused or exempt from the call to worship.
Likewise, we mustn’t miss the correlation of Psalm 113:3 to Revelation 7:9-10: “After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, ‘Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!’” We prepare for this eschatological praise-fest in our present day worship—our psalms and hymns and spiritual songs—but also by our work of Gospel-sharing, based on Jesus’ command to “Go… and make disciples” (Matthew 28:18).
I have been fascinated by the paradigm shift in missions of recent years. In times past we would send missionaries to faraway lands for them to learn language and culture. They would translate Scripture, present the gospel, and pray that many would come to Christ. A new era of missions is developing, as believers in Africa, Europe, and Latin America are coming to us and saying, “We are ‘Brethren’—we are your brothers and sisters.” It is a healthy relationship, no longer like a parent and child, but more like an equal friendship or partnership.
These new relationships are maintained not only by occasional visits, but also with the benefit of the internet. Daily communication by methods like email, Facebook, and WhatsApp keep the connections strong. Together we grow in Christ. Together we are encouraged in our faith. Together we share the gospel message. Together we are praising the Lord everywhere!
By Erika Clary, serving through Brethren Volunteer Service as the 2022 National Youth Conference coordinator with Youth and Young Adult Ministries
Over the last year, I coordinated National Youth Conference (NYC), which took place at the end of July.
I would like to thank Church of the Brethren staff, volunteers, members, and supporters for your encouragement over the last year. Thank you especially to those who worked behind the scenes to make NYC a success. I’m sure many times as staff or even as advisors, planning this event may have felt thankless, so I want to explicitly say right now–thank you so much. NYC takes more than just a village; it takes a whole metropolitan area.
It feels almost impossible to sum up all the emotions that arose from NYC. The one thing that has consistently come to mind is a feeling of unwavering hope. Time and time again throughout the week, the youth showed why we should have no problem entrusting them with the church.
One thing the worship team was adamant about this year was youth involvement. We initially struggled to assemble the NYC band, but this challenge ended up being a perfect opportunity to ask youth to participate. Through singing and the playing of a variety of instruments (viola, flute, drums, guitar, and more), the youth showed courage and extraordinary leadership. They also brought their gifts of reading liturgy and acting in scripture dramas. We saw youth literally jumping out of the boat (as seen in the photo above).
One thing about these youth that has given me so much hope is how they simply showed up. Youth groups struggled to fundraise and hadn’t spent imperative time together in community because of the pandemic. They could have remained scattered and their minds could have been drawn to so many other things, but they still chose to show up. And they didn’t just show up to NYC itself or to play in the band or read liturgy like I talked about; they showed up for one another.
Youth cheered on their friends who played in the band or read liturgy, and they held each other tight after being anointed. They sat with one another in small groups, and shared meals in the dining halls. Amid the stress and anxiety that went into planning NYC over the last year, the fact that the youth showed up and showed up for one another reminded me why I did this job in the first place.
One of the things that strengthened my unwavering sense of hope was the youth speech contest winners. The theme of this year’s youth speech contest was “Bring Your Own Jesus Story.” The worship coordinators asked youth to consider how Jesus is foundational to their lives, pick a story about Jesus that relates to their story, and then preach on it. Kara Bidgood Enders talked about the story of the Good Samaritan, Hannah Smith talked about Jesus calming the storm, and finally, Anna Schweitzer related to the story about Jesus healing the blind man.
I remember watching their video submissions months ago and sitting in my office crying because of how vulnerable and wise those young women were. They weren’t just representing themselves, they were representing their peers, too. The three young women talked about being neighborly, about crying out to Jesus in waves of depression and anxiety, and about doing good things for people without hoping for any credit. Their words inspired not just the youth, but everyone in attendance. They definitely inspired me. It wasn’t that long ago that I was their age, and I can’t imagine going on stage in front of 900 people and being that vulnerable. And yet, they did it. They showed up. And they gave us hope.
There are many lessons I’ve learned in the last year, but one of them is that we need to simply learn to pass the microphone to the youth. They are strong, fearless, and adaptable, and always lift each other up. Though the verses may be familiar, 1 Timothy 4:12-14 is worth repeating. I like how the Message translation says it best: “Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed–keep that dusted off and in use.” If I had to sum up the hope the youth at NYC made me feel, it would be through these verses. They are teaching with their lives. I know they are teaching me.
We need to give our youth space to show up, to pass them the microphone, to listen to their stories, and to show up for them the same way they show up for us. They are the future, after all.
In closing, I want to share a sending that Cindy Laprade Lattimer, one of our worship coordinators, wrote for the NYC worship that the youth speech contest winners, after sharing their speeches, proclaimed together (as seen below). I teared up when I heard it.
We are all made of stories. Go and embrace God’s story by loving others, no matter the circumstance. Go and live your story, knowing that you are never alone, whatever storms arise. Go and share the story, doing the unexpected and acting neighborly. Amen.