Newsline for Dec. 16, 2016




And the Word became flesh and lived among us
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford


1) ‘We rejoice this Advent season’: Annual Conference moderator sends Christmas letter

2) CDS continues Healing Hearts training in Nigeria

3) Trip to Nigeria connects with peacebuilding efforts, food crisis needs

4) Brethren bits: Personnel, moderator-elect receives Rockford award, “Night Circle” of Crest Manor Church shares Christmas stockings, people of goodwill in Lancaster County--including Brethren and Mennonites--get a “shout out”

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Quote of the week:

“Today, while many prepare to celebrate Christmas with their families, we need to stop for a moment and pray for our sisters and brothers who remain in the midst of a devastating war. Pray for the people who find themselves trapped within Aleppo. Pray for their endurance and their will to survive. Pray for those who having escaped have come back to help others. Pray that this fratricidal war reaches its end and no more innocent lives are lost. My God, ‘you are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.’ (Psalm 119:114)”

-- From Christian Peacemaker Teams’ “Prayers for Peacemakers” for Dec. 14. Find more from CPT online at www.cpt.org .

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1) ‘We rejoice this Advent season’: Annual Conference moderator sends Christmas letter

Snowy barn

By Carol Scheppard

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Grace and Peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. We rejoice this Advent season as we celebrate the incarnation--God’s astounding act of love to become human, live among us, and lead us out from our darkness. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

As the angels proclaimed: “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find the child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger... Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”
 
God chose to be born into a troubled world of political upheaval and social unrest that our obsession with principalities and powers might be shaken at its core. Yet more astonishing, God chose to be born in a barn to humble, weary travelers that we might know the amazing power of divine transformation, power that is ours as we claim our appointed place in the Body of Christ. 

Have we heard this story so many times that we no longer recognize its magnificence, no long anticipate its transformation, no longer trust its promises? This Advent season can we experience this story with fresh eyes and ears, stepping out in bold expectation of its fruits? God can and does and will transform our lives and our world as we open ourselves to Christ’s presence. Let us wait together with eager anticipation, watching and listening for the movement of the Holy Spirit.

And as we wait, let us not forget who we are. We are the Chosen of God/the Body of Christ, a manifestation of his presence on earth and the agents of his kingdom. As such, our first task is to worship God and God alone, turning from all forms of idolatry (pride, wealth, or power), and testifying to God’s abundant steadfast love.

Our second task is to take care of each other, supporting one another in faith and ministering to the needs of the widow, the orphan, and the stranger in our midst. In worshiping God alone, we stand apart from principalities and powers, channeling God’s steadfast love for the oppressed and the powerless. As it was in the world at the time of Christ’s birth, darkness presses upon us and threatens to extinguish our hope. Remember that the light of Christ shines in the humblest of places and blazes among the scattered and the dispossessed. As the Body of Christ our rightful place is with Jesus at the back of the barn.

So, be audacious this Advent season and Risk Hope! Worship God in all God’s glory and take care of those who stand alone in the shadows. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” Our God lives and reigns in this world and the next! 

Warm regards for a blessed Christmas,

In Christ,

Carol Scheppard
2017 Annual Conference Moderator

-- For more information about the 2017 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren, go to www.brethren.org/ac .





2) CDS continues Healing Hearts training in Nigeria

Chidren's Disaster Services continues Healing Hearts training in Nigeria

Chidren's Disaster Services continues Healing Hearts training in Nigeria

By Kathleen Fry-Miller

We are so grateful that John Kinsel was able to return to Nigeria earlier this month and provide additional Healing Hearts training, trauma healing for children, and follow-up on behalf of Children’s Disaster Services (CDS). He was again hosted by Suzan Mark, director of EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) Women’s Ministry.

Twenty-five women and men were trained to do trauma healing work with children affected by the violence of the Boko Haram, including nine of the women who attended as a follow-up training to the first Training of Trainers in April.

Kinsel was able to spend some time talking with the previously trained women about what they had learned over six months of training others and working with children in their communities of northeast Nigeria. He was happy to be able to get out into villages and meet so many wonderful people.

The Healing Hearts Training of Trainers included discussion of child development and how it changes in trauma, techniques for working with children that promote healing and resilience, self-care for trainers who also have been affected by violence toward their families, and then specifics about how to present sessions to groups of children.

The Healing Hearts curriculum is story-based, play-based, and arts-based. Many of the participants work with Christian and Muslim children in their communities, so this time the training used stories appropriate to both faith perspectives with a focus on healing and compassion. The participants were encouraged to bring their own experiences and skills to this work. As part of the training, the group did a practicum experience with 130 children of the community.

Kinsel and Carl and Roxanne Hill brought eight Kits of Comfort to Nigeria for teams to use with children. The kits included art supplies, materials to make bean bags and puppets, as well as lovingly created dolls and stuffed animals.

-- Kathleen Fry-Miller is associate director of Children’s Disaster Services, which is a part of Brethren Disaster Ministries. Find out more at www.brethren.org/cds .





3) Trip to Nigeria connects with peacebuilding efforts, food crisis needs

By Nathan Hosler

Jennifer Hosler and I recently traveled to Nigeria to consult, connect with, and support the development and peacebuilding work of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Jennifer traveled to Nigeria in her role as a member of the advisory committee of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Initiative. In this role, she met with EYN leaders and members who had traveled to Ghana in September 2016, together with Jeff Boshart (Global Food Initiative director) to learn about soybean projects.

The CAMPI Committee shown in 2011 at a farewell event for Nathan and Jennifer Hosler, as they finished their term of service in Nigeria. CAMPI (Christians and Muslims for Peacebuilding Initiatives) at the time had been in existence for more than a year, bringing together Muslim imams and Christian pastors to dialogue with each other and build relationships across religious divides.
Photo courtesy of the Hoslers

The CAMPI Committee shown in 2011 at a farewell event for Nathan and Jennifer Hosler, as they finished their term of service in Nigeria. CAMPI (Christians and Muslims for Peacebuilding Initiatives) at the time had been in existence for more than a year, bringing together Muslim imams and Christian pastors to dialogue with each other and build relationships across religious divides.

Most EYN members and other residents in northeast Nigeria are farmers (often small-scale) who grow food for family use and to supplement income. Due to the extensive displacement by Boko Haram over the past several years, the ability to plant and harvest has been severely disrupted. Displacement from land, return after planting season, and fear of ongoing and sporadic Boko Haram attacks in some areas have led to reduced harvests and food shortages. Some communities face crop theft and terrorism from Boko Haram. During our visit, we heard that Kauthama, a village not far from EYN headquarters, had been attacked and 80 percent of its homes and crops were destroyed or taken.

I traveled as part of my work with the Office of Public Witness. Much focus was on the growing food crisis and famine in the northeast as well as on peacebuilding. The Office of Public Witness has been raising concerns about Nigeria’s food crisis in Washington, D.C. The office collaborated to organize a briefing for US Congressional staff in November and sent out an action alert asking Brethren to contact their elected officials to adequately address this emerging famine.

As former peace and reconciliation staff with EYN from September 2009 to December 2011, we were also able to use this visit to support EYN and other groups’ peacemaking efforts. We taught a three-hour peacebuilding workshop at Kulp Bible College, met with the EYN Peace Program staff in Kwarhi, and visited one of its new initiatives in Yola.

CAMPI (Christians and Muslims for Peacebuilding Initiatives) was founded in Mubi in 2010 and has recently established a chapter in Yola, the state capital of Adamawa State. We were involved with the starting of CAMPI in Mubi in 2010 and 2011. Since our work ended in December 2011, EYN’s Peace Program CAMPI in Mubi has started nine peace clubs in secondary schools.

We were hosted for a meal by the Adamawa Peacemakers Initiative (API) at American University in Nigeria (AUN), also based in Yola. API is bringing together Christians and Muslims to meet human need and to build bridges between communities often wracked by distrust. During the massive influx of internally displaced persons (IDPs) into Yola in 2014 and 2015, API worked with AUN to provide emergency food relief to thousands of people in need. Additionally, they are working at reconciliation in communities through women’s empowerment programs, informal education, and sports. Though no formal agreements were made, API responded enthusiastically to the efforts of EYN for peace, meeting food needs, and trauma healing.

We also had extensive conversations with staff of the US embassy to Nigeria, highlighting the effects of displacement, the causes of violence, the food crisis, the Nigerian government’s response, and needed work for peacebuilding.

-- Nate Hosler is director of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C.





Stockings made and given away by the "Night Circle" at Crest Manor Church of the Brethren 

The Night Circle of Crest Manor Church of the Brethren in South Bend, Ind., made 95 Christmas stockings for a church in the community that serves those in need. Each year, gifts and a stocking full of goodies are provided to those who may not have any other Christmas celebration. The whole congregation at Crest Manor got involved, not only sewing the stockings but giving cash donations that allowed for the purchase of numerous stocking “stuffers.”

4) Brethren bits

-- Randall (Randy) Lee Yoder begins March 1, 2017 as interim district executive minister for Atlantic Northeast District. A Manchester College and Bethany Theological Seminary graduate, he has been a minister in the Church of the Brethren for over 50 years. He has served as a pastor, a professor, a director of Insurance Services for Brethren Benefit Trust, and also was district executive minister in Middle Pennsylvania District for 20 years. In 2009, he served as interim district executive for Pacific Southwest District. In Atlantic Northeast District, Yoder will serve in a three-quarter time position, for up to one year. He lives in Huntingdon, Pa.

-- The Church of the Brethren has hired Chasity Gunn of Elgin, Ill., as conference and event assistant for Congregational Life Ministries. Most recently she has been an assistant manager at a Dick’s Sporting Goods store, and a substitute teacher in the U-46 School District where she often has worked in dual-language classrooms instructing students in Spanish. Her past work experience includes a graduate teaching assistantship at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn.; a position as summer production assistant for the “Waterstone Literary Journal” and service on the journal’s Poetry Editorial Board; and a job as education reporter for the “Daily News Journal” of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Her work with Congregational Life Ministries will support staff in conference and program promotion, logistics, and registration. 

City of Rockford Innovative and Open Team Award for 2016 

Annual Conference moderator-elect Samuel Sarpiya has received an award from the city of Rockford, Ill., where he is involved in a cooperative peacemaking effort with the police department and other community groups. The “City of Rockford Innovative and Open Team Award” in December was presented to Sarpiya and two members of the police department: Mike Dalke, assistant deputy chief, and Jason Mallo, investigator.

The group that received the City of Rockford award

-- Brethren, Mennonites, and other people of goodwill in Lancaster County, Pa., have received a “shout out” from Lancaster Online, in an editorial titled “As acts of hatred are committed elsewhere, Lancaster County represents a “beacon of light.’” “Lancaster County religious organizations offered their support to the Islamic Society of Greater Harrisburg after that mosque received a threatening hate letter from a group calling itself Americans for a Better Way,” the article said, in part. “Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren leaders sent a letter pledging their support and offering ‘any practical assistance.’ The Islamic Community Center of Lancaster also offered its support. You may have noticed the green, blue and orange lawn signs appearing outside people’s homes around the county. In English, Spanish and Arabic, they read: ‘No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.’ ...While racist and anti-Semitic symbols are scrawled on buildings in communities across the country--manifesting like a viral rash--and the number of hate crimes continues to climb nationwide, Lancaster County is mounting a quiet resistance.” Read the full op-ed piece at http://lancasteronline.com/opinion/editorials/as-acts-of-hatred-are-committed-elsewhere-lancaster-county-represents/article_e120463c-c0c3-11e6-a11c-6bcf4ddded27.html .


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Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Deborah Brehm, Debbie Eisenbise, Kathy Fry-Miller, Nate Hosler, Gimbiya Kettering, Samuel Sarpiya, Carol Scheppard, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at cobnews@brethren.org . Newsline appears every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Newsline will be taking a break over Christmas and the New Year holiday. The next regularly scheduled issue is set for Jan. 13.

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