Community recovery

Photos by Helen Wolf

By Jenn Dorsch‐Messler, director of Brethren Disaster Ministries

As we come to the end of Brethren Disaster Ministries’ Memorial Day 2019 tornado recovery project in the Dayton, Ohio, area it is wonderful to think of some of the highlights that have made it unlike most BDM rebuilding projects. These include the local district answering the call to serve wherever needed, a recovery community that continued to assist even during a pandemic, and a new program which was formed to serve a group of survivors not often helped after a disaster.

The Southern Ohio/Kentucky District stepped up in ways not usually seen on other BDM national projects where the closest Brethren church is typically hundreds of miles away. For months, beginning within days of the tornados, there were district volunteers helping to clear trees, tarp roofs, and canvas neighborhoods looking for those in need of help. District disaster coordinators Burt and Helen Wolf began coordinating with volunteers in the Dayton area even though they were away serving on the Coastal North Carolina rebuilding site when the tornados hit. Later they and other BDM representatives collaborated with others in the community in the formation of the Miami Valley Long-term Recovery Operations Group, which planned the next steps in the recovery of the whole community.

Following the initial work by district volunteers and leaders, a national BDM program rebuilding site was scheduled to open in April 2020. Everything about life and plans changed around that time, however, altering the timeline and halting all rebuilding work.

The global pandemic brought a lot of challenges and unknown factors, including travel recommendations that restricted travel for volunteers from outside the Dayton area. By July 2020, however, local volunteers from BDM and other organizations were able to join together to begin serving survivors. The long-term BDM disaster project leadership, typically provided by those who travel to serve on a site, was led by Christi “Sammy” Deacon, Phil Deacon, and Rex Miller, who served for many months within an hour of their homes.

The reduction in volunteerism and funding for most volunteer groups made it clear that if organizations did not work together in the safest way possible, families would be left out of their homes for even longer. And so, after a necessary delay to develop COVID-19 protocols and put them in place, non-profits in the area began new partnerships to work for homeowners with new ways to physically be in each other’s presence.

By August 2020, the project volunteer housing was opened and BDM volunteers from other states who agreed to observe the strict COVID-19 protocol began serving in Dayton. The project remained open through November 2020 and then again from April-October 2021. During this time, the number of volunteers able or willing to serve across all organizations was lower than usual, which made the local community even more thankful for those who came to serve.

The last rebuild that BDM worked on belonged to Ms. Lillie, who had part of the roof blown off two rooms in her home by the tornado. BDM’s volunteers helped her by saving thousands of dollars in contractor fees. Few days went by without Ms. Lillie coming by to say thank you or her neighbors in the tightknit community stopping to share their appreciation. A neighbor even purchased lunch for all the volunteers one day as a thank you for helping Ms. Lillie finally get back into her home after over two and a half years.

A focus other than repairing storm-damaged houses developed when a new set of public and private partners created the Tornado Survivor Pathways to Homeownership program (referred to as Pathways). This program supports renters, who had lost their housing due to the tornados, to return to their home neighborhoods and to purchase new or rehabilitated properties. Thanks to technology, the planning for this program took place virtually. The groundbreaking on the first home was on March 29, 2021. BDM volunteers have served on five of these Pathways houses. The first former renter/new homeowner moved in at the end of the BDM project.

Although scheduled to end in September 2021, the Dayton site was extended and the last group of national BDM volunteers left on Oct. 30. Incredibly, and in God’s timing, as local district volunteers closed out the remaining work in Dayton, another group of Southern Ohio/Kentucky District volunteers arrived in North Carolina on Oct. 31 as the first group to return to the Coastal NC project.

Thank you to all who volunteered, donated, and prayed for community recovery in Dayton!

This reflection was originally featured in Bridges,the newsletter of Brethren Disaster Ministries. Learn more about the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries at www.brethren.org/bdm or support its work today at www.brethren.org/give-bdm.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Thanking God for you, overflowing with love.

www.brethren.org/year-end-offering

By Traci Rabenstein, director of Mission Advancement

“How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? . . . May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” ~1 Thessalonians 3:9 & 12, NIV

As I write this final reflection for 2021, it’s hard to believe that the year is almost over. My grandparents used to talk about how fast time was moving along. As a young girl, I didn’t really understand. Now I do. Each year seems to go by more quickly than the last, and near the end of each one, I find myself wondering:  what impact is the Church of the Brethren making in this world and in our communities?

It is easy to get caught up in the drama and chaos of our country, to move to one side or the other of a discussion or political view, or to use that view as the lens in which we mold God into the image we prefer. We are called, however, to discern with scripture and the Holy Spirit what the shape of God actually is.

In his speech to the Greeks in the Areopagus, Paul told them that we cannot think of God as an object that we can shape. He said, “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising” (Acts 17:29). Instead, we are called to increasingly embody the image of God through our transformative relationship with Jesus Christ and through him seek to love one another as he loved us.

The words of Paul to the church in Thessalonica contain encouragement and blessing for them. 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 was also written as a prayer for them. His words are a reminder to those who followed the teachings of Christ to be centered, not on themselves or their struggles, but on loving each other and showing compassion to all who were suffering. Indeed, by encouraging them to love generously, he was inviting them to “live and share the radical transformation and holistic peace of Jesus Christ”—a mission that we now carry together.

Through loving one another, we join together to show compassion to those who are in need and with whom we can serve and share God’s blessings. Your support this year allowed for the Global Food Initiative and Brethren Disaster Ministries to send grant monies across the globe to our partners who were in need of assistance during this pandemic season. Your contributions made a way for National Older Adult Conference to gather online and for our Intercultural Ministries to offer webinars to stretch us to think outside ourselves and toward survivors of all kinds of injustice. Your partnership has made it possible for Brethren Volunteer Service and FaithX to provide opportunities for service and workcamps in areas where support was needed. In all these ways and many more, the ministries of the Church of the Brethren have made a difference in 2021 with your help.

As this year ends and the next one begins, we thank God for you and celebrate all that we do together. Thank you for your generous gifts of finances, prayer, and service. Together our love increases and overflows for the glory of God and our neighbor’s good.

Learn more about the ministries of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/greatthings or give a year-end offering.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Growing around the world

Eric Miller sharing about a recent Global Mission and Brethren Disaster Ministries trip to Haiti at a Facebook live event.

By Ruoxia Li and Eric Miller, co-directors of Global Mission

In recent years, there has been a concern about decline in the church in the US; however, the global church is growing in most of the 10 countries where the Church of the Brethren has sister denominations around the world. Annual grants provide critical funds to support leaders as they develop denominations in countries that are torn by conflict and disasters. Fellowships are forming in new countries. Churches are being built and leaders are being trained through programs in the US as well as those they design themselves or in nearby seminaries.

In the last year, major gifts have made possible the purchase of a new property for Delmas, the Haitian mother church. These gifts have supported the completion of the first translation of the Bible into Kamwe—a language in Nigeria—which is a culmination of work over decades. Your generosity has allowed us to send money to Nigeria to rebuild churches that were destroyed as Christians are persecuted and attacked. Your gifts also provide resources for building new churches in the African countries of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as well as in Venezuela. Evangelism of those churches is reaching people who have been marginalized in their own countries and gives them hope as they receive the Good News that Jesus cares and that they matter—to God and to the human family.

Your gifts help us build relationships with our brothers and sisters around the world. We pray for them, and they pray for us, and all of us are blessed. These relationships allow Brethren Disaster Ministries to respond quickly to needs that strike the areas where we have churches. As one example, churches in Rwanda and the DRC were able to distribute food to their members and neighbors after a volcano there. In addition to places where we have sister churches, your gifts also support projects in eight other countries around the world. This includes literally bringing sight to the blind in Vietnam, and supporting peacemakers in war-torn South Sudan.

Through your generosity, Brethren around the world will continue to do this and so much more in the coming year. They are able to do so much with so little. Despite many challenges, we can celebrate that our church is growing around the world!

Visit www.brethren.org/global/ for more information about the work of Global Mission and to sign up for the global mission prayer guide. Support this ministry of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/giveGM.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Service is never unbearable

BVS volunteer Evan Ulrich works at a Rebuilding project in Dayton, Ohio.
Photo courtesy of Evan Ulrich

By Evan Ulrich, member of Brethren Volunteer Service Unit 325

Dayton, Ohio, was never on my radar for places to live after I graduated from Juniata College. However, as a member of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) Unit 325, I found myself signing up to spend my year of service with Brethren Disaster Ministries’ (BDM) Rebuilding Program.

And I am so glad I did. BVS helped steer me toward volunteering with BDM—an organization that allows Brethren (and anyone else willing to pick up a hammer) to act upon our shared belief of serving others. In that case, that means serving others by rebuilding homes that were destroyed or damaged by natural disasters.

What I find unique and remarkable about BDM is its long-term goal. Each site focuses on long-term recovery. After all the media coverage and initial assistance has died down, BDM comes in to pick up where others left off. Sometimes even years after a disaster there is still much work to be done.

As I write this there are two sites open for volunteers—one in Bayboro, N.C., to assist those hit by Hurricane Florence in 2018, and the other here in Dayton. Our site is located a few miles east of downtown, in a recently closed Presbyterian church. Our work encompasses the greater Dayton area as we help rebuild homes damaged when 15 devastating tornadoes ripped through the area on Memorial Day in 2019.

Due to the type of disaster, the majority of our work involves repairing damaged roofs, installing new siding, and performing interior repairs due to water damage. Hanging and finishing drywall seems to be a never-ending project. I’m getting lots of practice! The work can sometimes be tedious, hot, cold, and occasionally quite odorous. Added on top of this is the duty to keep everyone safe during the pandemic and adhering to all COVID-19 safety precautions.

But helping fellow humans through love is never unbearable. It is a true blessing and the highest privilege to lay your needs down and pick up the needs of a stranger. I am grateful for being able to see this occur every day with the volunteers who come out.

Being a part of the site long-term, I have the opportunity to see the timeline of recovery over its full span. Each week brings something new: a different set of volunteers, and a different energy. But what never ceases to amaze me is the amount of quality work that gets accomplished by even the most inexperienced group of volunteers. Everyone has an important job, no matter the skill set.

One survivor of a disaster expressed his gratitude by simply saying how nice it was to not have rain coming into his house. This short statement made me step back and realize how many comforts we take for granted—and how important it is for us to safely serve others through love.

Brethren Volunteer Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries are ministries of the Church of the Brethren. Support them today at www.brethren.org/give.

This reflection was originally featured in
Messenger magazine.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Set free to love and serve

Chains broken
Photo by Elias Sch

By Traci Rabenstein, director of Mission Advancement

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. … You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. … Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:1, 13-15, 24-25).

These are not easy words for the church in Galatia to hear, nor for us today. Paul wrote this letter to Jewish believers who were teaching Gentile believers that they needed to follow the letter of the law in order to follow Jesus. In addition to correcting them, Paul was also calling them to find freedom in Christ. Since the Jews who believe in Jesus as their Messiah struggled with a split identity—growing up with strict adherence to the Torah and, now, celebrating their freedom in Christ—it’s no surprise that they also struggled with how a Gentile could now become a part of the family of God.

This tension divided the early church, and Paul wrote to urge them that their faith was no longer centered around the law but, rather, Jesus, who fulfilled it. Their former directive was now simplified to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Earlier in the letter, Paul shared about a time he rebuked Peter and other church leaders, and in chapter 5, he built a case for liberty and stated plainly that all believers were saved by faith, not by keeping the law. Their salvation through faith alone freed them to love and serve one another, carry each other’s burdens, and share kindness with everyone (chapter 6).

What does this mean for us today? The church in Galatia struggled to find loving unity and experienced bouts of dissension—an atmosphere that, unfortunately, can feel too close to home.  Don’t we also struggle to live in loving unity? Experience disagreement with each other? Can our discord also lead into destructive postures? And can’t all of this harm our life together and our testimony?

While the Church of the Brethren may seem like an easy target for these questions, this can also be true for any church regardless of denominational affiliation. Many churches have struggled with one issue or another, and it has led to ugly feuding. When we are not motivated by love, we become more critical of others. We stop looking for good in them and see only their faults. Soon the unity of believers is broken.

According to Paul, there is a way to counteract division. He proclaimed repeatedly what it means to have freedom through Christ Jesus. He kept sharing the message that faith in Jesus Christ equals salvation, that salvation equals freedom, and that freedom leads us to love and serve every person made in God’s image without prejudice. The message is for every person. Salvation is offered to every person. Loving and serving are for every person. Freedom from selfish desire. Freedom from Satan’s agenda. Freedom from being overcome by the ways of the world. This is what transformation through faith in Christ looks like and this empowers us to bear a spirit of freedom with joy and confidence. It transforms us to serve the least of these without reservation, so that they may catch a glimpse of God through us.

As the Church of the Brethren, through the financial support of congregations and individuals, we reach to the corners of our country and the world, and we proclaim the message of freedom through faith in Jesus. We bear witness to the love that God has for all people through the ways we are present with and serve others. This happens through ministries like Global Mission and Service, Brethren Disaster Ministries, Brethren Volunteer Service, Discipleship Ministries, the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, and the Global Food Initiative.  Through our shared work, we continue the work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together.

Even through seasons of tension and sharp disagreement, doubt and uncertainty, may we be Brethren who seek to find light and hope. May we find God’s presence within us and around us in our life together.  And may we continue to focus on the work we are called to do as the body of Christ, doing it in love and in service to others.

Support our shared work of love and service today at www.brethren.org/give.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Celebrate what God has done in 2019

Photos by Doretta Dorsch, Glenn Riegel, courtesy of Martin Hutchison,
and Church of the Brethren staff.

“Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering.”
– Psalm 96:7-8a


As 2019 concludes, we remember what God has done among us through the ministries of the Church of the Brethren.

We celebrate the ministries of international Brethren bodies and partnerships, the 1,064 individuals who attended Discipleship Ministries conferences this year, the ongoing work of the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, 33 grants totaling $200,000 given by the Global Food Initiative to national and international projects, the continued work of Brethren Disaster Ministries to serve individuals and families through times of need, and 79 Brethren Volunteer Service workers who served in the US and around the world in 2019.

Thank you for your prayerful and financial support in 2019.
Have a very blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Celebrate with us by making a year-end gift to the Church of the Brethren.

www.brethren.org/give

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Serving together for a purpose

Brethren Disaster Ministries long-term project leaders
Steve Keim and Kim Gingerich (first row from left) enjoy watching
friendships develop among volunteers coming from different
districts and backgrounds as they share God’s love together.
Photo by Brethren Disaster Ministries staff
By Kim Gingerich, long-term disaster project leader

As a long-term volunteer project leader with the Brethren Disaster Ministries (BDM) Rebuilding program, I have had the privilege of experiencing this ministry from the “inside” for more than five years. I’ve been given the opportunity to see our denomination through different eyes:  the eyes of service, compassion, and love.  The one thing that keeps standing out to me is how we are united, as opposed to how we might be divided. The “we” are volunteers who come from different districts across the denomination to serve together each week. I often comment to them during our end-of-week debriefing that this ministry is the best-kept secret of our denomination.

Why do I say that? Because those who come to serve strive for a common goal that we fulfill together. What is that common goal? To glorify God as we serve with our hands, feet, and hearts to help restore hope in our clients and the communities in which we serve. Because we have that common goal, we are united. Despite our differences, we are united. We are united because we are motivated by love—God’s love for us and our love for Him—which in turn compels us to love our neighbor as ourselves. As Galatians 5:13-14 tells us: “Serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command:  Love your neighbor as yourself.”

This is how we build the body and unite the church, week after week:  through acts of service that provide opportunities to break down barriers and build relationships. Serving. United. Being the church.

Since BDM has combined its two project sites into one in Lumberton, N.C., we have received a lot of feedback from volunteers that illustrates this unity through service. Here are just a few:

• We are working with people for a common goal—an extraordinary goal.
• It’s the Holy Spirit taking human form, out of our hearts and into our hands.
• We’re so different but we have so much in common.
• Volunteers are like-minded people.
• We come as strangers but leave as friends or family.
• We are stronger together.

Together, across districts and denominations, we come. Different but the same, bound together by love, serving for a purpose, restoring hope, and being the church as we build homes and relationships. These are the real ministries the Rebuilding program of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

This reflection was originally featured in the summer issue of Bridges newsletter produced by Brethren Disaster Ministries. Learn more about the Rebuilding program at www.brethren.org/bdm/rebuild or support it today at www.brethren.org/bdm/givenow .

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Continuing the work of Jesus into 2019

By David Steele, general secretary

Greetings in the name of our Savior born for us—the Messiah, our Lord!

On behalf of our worldwide staff, volunteers, and the Mission and Ministry Board, I want to express our gratitude for the many ways you faithfully strive to live out the gospel—to simply try to do what Jesus did. The vital ministries of Church of the Brethren members and congregations, small and large, are at the heart of our denomination. Your witness is essential in our partnership as we together herald the Good News of the birth of Jesus Christ.

As we close the year, we celebrate that our Brethren witness is meaningfully extended into new places and in new ways. The Church of the Brethren is seeking to become a Global Church of the Brethren. Our growth around the world and our commitment to deeper and more meaningful relationships are helping this vision become a reality as we enter 2019.

In August, Josiah and Christine Ludwick and their children began a year of service in Rwanda to preach, teach, and demonstrate a Brethren way of living. Their appointment is vital to the efforts of establishing a peace testimony in the Great Lakes region of Africa as they host theological education and training, assist in the construction of church buildings, and deepen relationships.

In Venezuela, the Brethren witness is growing but economic turmoil has prevented the placement of mission staff at this time. Global Mission and Service staff and volunteers travel there when possible and work with Venezuelan leadership to broaden the understanding of our church’s theology and practice.

Brethren in Spain continue to add new congregations and expand their membership. Many are immigrants, but Spanish citizens are beginning to take notice and come to services.

Haitian Brethren have proved themselves faithful again this year by reaching out to the suffering when an earthquake struck in the north of the country.

In Nigeria, Global Mission executive Jay Wittmeyer was present at the commissioning of a new EYN congregation at the Gurku Interfaith Camp for displaced people. The Nigerian Brethren also commissioned their newest church district in Lagos, with EYN now numbering 55 districts. The Nigeria Crisis Response continues to bring healing and hope to thousands of families displaced by violence.

Embracing Jesus’ call to go and make disciples has been at the heart of our ministries throughout this year.

Youth and advisors gathered at National Youth Conference to be challenged in their walk of faith.

Church planters and others gathered at the New and Renew Conference for professional development and encouragement for the work of nurturing new disciples.

The Discipleship Ministries team provided resource leadership at congregational and district events, web-based learning opportunities, and collaboration with Bethany Seminary for an Urban Ministry intensive in Atlanta.

For Brethren Disaster Ministries, loss of Paradise Church of the Brethren and most of the congregation’s homes ended an intense year of responding to disasters—including a rebuilding project in North Carolina that closed during Hurricane Florence but quickly reopened to help people affected by Hurricane Matthew. In Puerto Rico, our disaster response expanded into the mountains around Castañer, where a long-term home rebuilding project will continue through next year.

Children’s Disaster Services supported families affected by floods, hurricanes, volcanoes, shootings, and the Camp Fire that burned Paradise.

Together, we have shared hope and God’s love. God has enabled us to extend Christ’s mission, serving those in need both near and far, growing disciples, calling and developing leaders, and transforming communities.  Thank you for your partnership, your generous support, and your prayers. May we together continue the work of Jesus.

Learn more about the ministries of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org or support them today at www.brethren.org/give.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Shout and sing for joy!

A reflection by Traci Rabenstein, director of Mission Advancement,
for Giving Tuesday 2018 on 11/27

“I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart! Where?
Down in my heart! Where? Down in my heart!
I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart! Where? Down in my heart to stay!
And I’m so happy, so very happy. I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart!
And I’m so happy, so very happy. I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart!”
– Verse 1 and chorus of “Joy in my heart” by George W. Cooke

Admit it! If you went to a summer Vacation Bible School as a child, you either started to hum the tune in your head as you read or even found yourself singing it by the end. I confess, my feet were tapping, and the tune of this song flooded my mind. It puts a smile on my face and reminds me of a time when summers were long, and you attended every Vacation Bible School in the area.

As I get older, each summer flies by faster than the last, and there seems to be less to smile about when I look at the world around us. Humanity continues to find ways to taunt and jab at each other, hurt one another, and in the extreme cases, take lives. It saddens the heart to hear how our children are bullied and the very institutions where we received education are no longer safe spaces, but instead are more like prison wards where padlocks and “visitor” badges are required. Our young adults grapple with body image issues and the pressures of having a “perfect” life because of the Pinterest-perfect, Instagram-ing, Facebook posting world in which we now live. Many of us are dodging and weaving the political rhetoric being spat at us from the very people for whom we prayerfully voted, and we now watch in amazement as grown, well-educated adults hurl accusations at one another at every level. Meanwhile the hungry grow hungrier and the poor become poorer, and the joy down in my heart seems like it could be snuffed out at any moment.

Thankfully, scripture can always provide hope:

“And you will say in that day:
Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name;
make known his deeds among the nations;
proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be known in all the earth.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”
– Isaiah 12:4-6

My joy is deeper in my heart now than it was when I was younger—in part because of the things I’ve seen and heard while serving the denomination. I give thanks to the Lord because of what God has done among us and through us, and what God continues to do. These past two years have given me opportunities to talk with pastors, visit with congregations, attend district conferences, and go to special events in the life of our districts, and I sing praises to the Lord, for he has done great things.

Congregations are striving to learn the needs of those who live in the communities where they worship, and they are caring for them through the way Jesus taught us:  by loving one another. This is very refreshing in a world full of hatred and division. One might say it’s another way of living!

Partnerships between congregations and denominational ministries provide a way to respond to the call of Jesus, “feed my sheep” (John 21:17). The Office of Peacebuilding and Policy and the Global Food Initiative, together and separately, provide ways for congregations to advocate for issues related to food, create sustainable community gardens, and, overall, care for the hungry in their neighborhoods.

Congregations also partner with Global Mission and Service to work alongside mission workers and international Brethren bodies as they start new church plants around the world—building churches, training pastors, and developing communities. Churches also support, in many ways, the efforts of Brethren Disaster Ministries. These ministries provide much needed humanitarian aid to those who have lived through disasters and simply need help.

Congregations are working with Discipleship Ministries to dig deeper into their relationships with God through use of deacon ministry resources, sending youth to National Youth Conference, empowering young adults through Young Adult Conference and Ministry Summer Service, and walking through the Vital Ministry Journey to discern how to more richly live into the Great Commission in their communities and circles of influence.

When I pause and think of all the stories that have been shared with me, stories that share the overwhelming effects of our ministry in the United States and globally, it sustains and renews my hope, and causes me to shout and sing for joy because of the great things God is doing among us.

As we give thanks through November and celebrate Giving Tuesday (11/27), we invite you to join us in shouting and singing for joy because of all that the Lord has done!

Join the celebration by making a gift to the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/givingtuesday.

Nigeria’s Director of Disaster Ministry visits United States Disaster program

By Rev. Yuguda Mdurvwa

First and foremost, I would want to thank God, and Church of the Brethren for giving me the opportunity to be at the Annual Conference and the one week of refreshing and learning about Brethren Disaster Ministry (BDM).

At Annual Conference:  Carl Hill, Roxane Hill, Rev Yuguda, and Roy Winter at Nigerian insight session

After the Sunday Service at Annual Conference, we started our journey to North Carolina with Brother Roy Winter who was driving. We spent over night at Peterson close to Greensboro. The next day, Monday, we continued with our journey to the rebuilding site. We arrived there at 11.25am. We met Harry and four volunteers working on the building, some were working on painting the interior walls, and others were cleaning the floor. Roy and I were given the permission to do the painting. Indeed, it was so nice that we worked for half an hour, laughing and enjoying the fellowship, we break for lunch at noon. Here I learned the commitment, willingness, sacrifice and humility of the volunteers.

After the lunch, we drove to another site, where we met four active volunteers working on the outer wall of the house. Ann, a young volunteer was leading the team, and I shared a few minutes discussing the work and then we went to the Methodist Church where all the volunteers were sleeping. During dinner I was introduced by Roy and the other volunteers did self-introductions. Afterwards I told my story of how the Lord saved us in Maiduguri in 2009 and in Mubi 2014 when Boko Haram attacked. There was a moment of sympathy and concerns for Nigeria. I saw their love and sacrifice. 

After visiting the Ocean and an Aquarium, we continued with our journey to Maryland. I was first shown the Church of Brethren, where Roy worships. Then the next day, Thursday, 12th July 2018, we visited New Windsor. I was taken round by Roy to the School building which was formally Brethren Service Center property. I was shown where containers are received, from there we went around the warehouse and offices where I met with all volunteers and staff. It was amazing how things are well organized, volunteers are working with joy in their hearts, most especially, the man that is handling the machine for packaging of clothes. After that we had a meeting with Disaster Staff, (Jenn, was absent but she participated through Skype call). I was given the opportunity to share about our work in Nigeria and my story. After our meeting, we went to celebrate our work and my coming to the BSC at a restaurant (Hibachi) with a fantastic demonstration.

These are some of the Lessons Learnt from the visit:

1. Brethren have the Spirit of service and humility 

2. All Volunteers and Staff are caring 

3. Things are well organized 

4. Out of their overabundance, they are willing to touch many lives 

5. Many people are continually praying for peace to reign in Nigeria 

6. I saw a true heart of love, care, service and dedication in Brother Roy.

May the Lord continue to bless the entire Church of the Brethren.