Newsline for July 30, 2016




Candles on the worship center of the 2016 Annual Conference, with the text from Psalm 28:18
Photo by Glenn Riegel

“It is you who light my lamp; the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness,” (Psalm 18:28).

For the latest Brethren news go to the main Newsline page

NEWS
1) EDF grants go to refugee resettlement, Burundi refugee crisis, Ecuador earthquake, and more
2) Material Resources ships aid to West Virginia, among other work
3) Bethany Seminary re-accreditation visits are scheduled
4) Crisis in Puerto Rico affects wellbeing of islanders, church members
5) Office of Public Witness staff connect with visiting Korean church delegation
6) BRF annual dinner receives message to ‘Carry the Light into the Workplace’
7) War looms on their borders, but life goes on: A report from Iraqi Kurdistan

RESOURCES
8) ‘Ventures’ program aims to serve more congregations with donation-based model

9) Brethren bits: Remembering L. Gene Bucher, personnel, jobs, Youth Peace Travel Team blog, African Great Lakes Batwa Conference, Brethren Academy TRIM/EFSM orientation, 46th Dunker Church Service at Antietam, “Sing Me High” at CrossRoads, more


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Quote of the week:

“Carrying the Light means doing what Jesus would do in every circumstance.”

-- Larry Rohrer, a minister at Shanks Church of the Brethren in Southern Pennsylvania District, giving the message, “Carry the Light into the Workplace,” at the annual Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF) dinner during the 2016 Annual Conference. See the report from the BRF dinner below, written by Karen Garrett.
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1) EDF grants go to refugee resettlement, Burundi refugee crisis, Ecuador earthquake, and more

Brethren Disaster Ministries has directed grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to assist with refugee resettlement in the United States, the Brethren Church of Rwanda response to Burundi refugees, Heifer International’s response to the earthquake in Ecuador, Church World Service (CWS) emergency preparedness and home construction in Haiti, and Proyecto Aldea Global’s work toward emergency preparedness in Honduras.

Syrian children in a refugee camp in Jordan. By Paul Jeffrey, ACT Alliance
Photo by Paul Jeffrey, ACT Alliance

Syrian children in a refugee camp in Jordan.

US refugee resettlement

An allocation of $15,000 has been given to CWS to assist with refugee resettlement in the US. The international refugee and displaced persons crisis has reached levels not seen since World War II, with 65 million displaced by violence and 21 million of these considered refugees. In response, the US government has agreed to take in additional refugees, and in turn CWS’s Immigration and Refugee Program will be resettling more refugees. The US plans to resettle 15,000 more refugees in 2016 than the 70,000 refugees resettled in 2015, and up to 100,000 in 2018. CWS is seeking support for refugee housing, food, and medical care. Ideally local churches would provide much of this support by sponsoring refugee families. However, the larger influx of refugees and reduction of churches willing to sponsor them has created a need for this direct aid to CWS. For more information about refugee resettlement go to www.brethren.org/refugee .

Burundi refugee crisis

An allocation of $14,000 has been given to a second phase of the response to the Burundi refugee crisis being carried out by the fledgling Brethren Church of Rwanda. Since April 2015, Burundians have been fleeing their country following election violence and a failed coup. In July 2015, President Nkurunziza’s third election resulted in escalating violence, human rights violations, and some 400 or more deaths. A year later, Burundi families continue to flee into neighboring countries trying to escape violence and reports of a potential genocide. The Brethren Church of Rwanda, under the leadership of Etienne Nsanzimana, has requested an additional grant to support 219 at-risk families numbering 1,750 people. The majority are women, children, and youth. In March, a grant of $25,000 provided emergency food and supplies to 325 families or 3,125 refugees most at risk, at a cost of $8 per person per month. This grant is requested to start the second phase of relief work in Kigali town. Funds will provide for food distributions of cornmeal, beans, rice, and cooking oil, as well as porridge SOSOMA flour (a mixture of soy, sorghum, maize, wheat, and millet), which is an important cheap balanced diet for malnourished children and nursing mothers.

Heifer Ecuador earthquake response

An allocation of $10,000 supports the Heifer International response to the earthquake in Ecuador. On April 16, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake occurred in Ecuador, centered approximately 17 miles from the towns of Muisne and Pedernales in a sparsely populated area. Widespread damage included homes, businesses, and infrastructure was seen in more than a 200-mile radius of the epicenter. At least 660 people were killed and 30,073 people injured. Heifer International has been working in Ecuador since 1954 and has projects in the area most impacted by the earthquake. Heifer partners, farmers, and families in the communities of Muisne, Manabi, Calceta, and Fortaleza del Valle sustained significant damage. Immediate needs included shelter, food, and water. Longer term needs include home reconstruction, rebuilding irrigation systems, crop processing units, and safe structures to preserve crops and protect livelihoods. An initial $10,000 grant helped Heifer Ecuador assist 900 families in Fortaleza del Valle and 300 families in Muisne. This grant will provide counseling and trauma support to families with children, will start housing reconstruction for families with the greatest need, and will support economic and ecological recovery including entrepreneurship for women.

CWS development work in Haiti

An allocation of $10,000 supports CWS emergency preparedness and home construction programs in Haiti. In a continued response to the 2010 earthquake, CWS issued an appeal for its 2016-18 phase of this program, which seeks to contribute to the Haitian people's efforts to eradicate hunger and poverty and promote peace and justice. Funds will help support this large long-term recovery and development program, including two areas that fit with the mandate of the Emergency Disaster Fund: emergency preparedness, and construction of 135 homes for earthquake survivors.

PAG emergency preparedness in Honduras

An allocation of $8,700 supports emergency preparedness in Honduras, through Brethren Disaster Ministries’ partner organization Proyecto Aldea Global (PAG). In the midst of the challenges of extreme poverty, violence, and frequent natural disasters such as hurricanes and flooding, PAG has been supporting local communities in Honduras with education, community development, disaster response, and many other programs. Storms in 2015 depleted PAG’s emergency response supplies and its ability to respond to new disasters. With the hurricane season already underway, PAG is in need of food items, personal hygiene supplies, and medicine to prepare for upcoming tropical storms and provide critical early relief to families. Funds will cover the shipment of emergency supplies including canned chicken--provided by the Mid-Atlantic District and Southern Pennsylvania District joint meat canning program--plus blankets and hygiene kits. In addition, a $3,000 grant to PAG will cover the purchase of medical supplies. 

For more about the Emergency Disaster Fund or to donate online go to www.brethren.org/edf .





2) Material Resources ships aid to West Virginia, among other work

Material Resources staff prepare to ships pallets of CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets.
Photo by Terry Goodger

Material Resources staff prepare to ships pallets of CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets.

During the month of July, 480 clean-up buckets and approximately 510 school kits were sent to aid flood relief efforts in West Virginia, shipped by the Church of the Brethren Material Resources program based at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The aid was shipped on behalf of International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) in partnership with Church World Service (CWS).

Material Resources warehouses and ships disaster relief materials in collaboration with a number of partners including ecumenical partners and humanitarian aid organizations.

The IOCC has begun distribution of aid to families in need in remote areas of West Virginia, where access remains difficult due to storm damage, said a release from the organization. “More than 500 clean-up buckets with household cleaning supplies, many donated by Orthodox Christian parishes and organizations from across the country through IOCC’s kit donation program, have been delivered to a distribution center outside of Lewisburg, W.Va., and are being distributed to smaller communities in the area,” the release reported (see www.iocc.org/get-updated/newsroom/iocc-delivers-assistance-west-virginia-families ).

Material Resources also recently provided a number of donated items to a local church agency that could put them to good use. When donated items are not needed in the kits program, the staff may seek local agencies that can use the items.

“Recently, Linthicum Heights United Methodist Church has been able to make use of many of these items,” wrote Terry Goodger of the Material Resources staff. The church received donated hygiene items and shared them with Arden House that provides a safe environment for women and children in crisis, Omni House offering psychiatric and rehabilitative services for adults with mental illness, and the church’s own Heavens Kitchen program providing a meal once a month in cooperation with other churches. The meal serves 60-80 homeless people and others in need of help.

Other donated items will be going to Ferndale United Methodist Church for a program in inner city Baltimore where, on a weekly basis, volunteers serve a meal and offer other services for the homeless living in the city.

Learn more about the work of Material Resources at www.brethren.org/materialresources .





3) Bethany Seminary re-accreditation visits are scheduled

By Jenny Williams
 
Bethany Theological Seminary is seeking comments from the public about the seminary in preparation for its periodic evaluations by its two accrediting agencies, the Higher Learning Commission and the Association of Theological Schools. Bethany Seminary is the Church of the Brethren graduate school of theology and is located in Richmond, Ind.
 
On Oct. 3-4, Bethany will host a visit from a team representing the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Bethany has been accredited by HLC since 1971. The team will review the institution’s ongoing ability to meet HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation.
 
On Oct. 10-13, Bethany will host a visit from a team representing the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). Bethany has been accredited by ATS since 1940. The team will review the institution’s ongoing ability to meet ATS’s Standards of Accreditation.
 
For HLC: The public is invited to submit comments regarding the seminary to the following address:
Public Comment on Bethany Theological Seminary
230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
Chicago, IL 60604-1411

The public also may submit comments on HLC’s website at www.hlcommission.org/comment .

For ATS: The public is invited to submit comments regarding the seminary to the following address:
Public Comment on Bethany Theological Seminary
10 Summit Park Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15275-1110

The public also may submit comments via e-mail at reaccreditationvisit@bethanyseminary.edu .

All comments must be in writing and must address substantive matters related to the quality of the institution or its academic programs. All comments must be received by Sept. 2. Please contact Steven Schweitzer, academic dean, at deansoffice@bethanyseminary.edu with questions or for further information. Thank you for your participation and support.
 
-- Jenny Williams is director of communications for Bethany Theological Seminary.





4) Crisis in Puerto Rico affects wellbeing of islanders, church members

The 2015 Annual Conference welcomed the new Puerto Rico District into the Church of the Brethren denomination. Previously, the churches in Puerto Rico were part of Atlantic Southeast District. With the addition of this new district, there are now 24 Church of the Brethren districts.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

The 2015 Annual Conference welcomed the new Puerto Rico District into the Church of the Brethren denomination. Previously, the churches in Puerto Rico were part of Atlantic Southeast District. With the addition of this new district, there are now 24 Church of the Brethren districts.

By Paul Parker and Stephanie Robinson

It may be surprising to some Church of the Brethren members that Puerto Rico, an island and United Sates territory, is a complete church district. The island became a church district in 2014, separating from Atlantic Southeast District. The current district executive is Jose Calleja Otero. Paul Parker, a member of Washington (D.C.) City Church of the Brethren, has family in Puerto Rico and visits the country. In the following paragraphs, he provides information to help us better understand the situation of our Puerto Rican Brethren.
 
Report on crisis in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States since 1898. It is an unincorporated territory; its people are US citizens. Colonization has distorted the economic and political life of the island.

Politically, the “status question” has distorted politics. The three main parties are all defined by their position on status for the island: statehood, continuation of the Commonwealth, or independence. The status question of the island has been used by the political parties to mobilize voters and, effectively, to mask the parties’ failures to address the underlying economic problems of the island. Government has been plagued by cronyism, incompetence, and corruption.

The commonwealth government was created in 1952, by act of US Congress granting limited local control. Some believed it granted “limited sovereignty” to the island. However, ultimate authority and sovereignty always rested with the US Congress. A US Supreme Court ruling this spring affirmed that ultimate sovereignty abides with the Congress.

Economically, agriculture has been greatly diminished. The sugar, coffee, and tobacco industries have almost disappeared. The island imports about 75 percent of its food, at significant cost and outflow of wealth. All goods must be imported in expensive, US flag vessels, raising the cost of living. Local industry and commerce have suffered from competition with domestic US producers.

Map of Puerto Rico

The economy of the island was supported by a federal law that allowed companies that invested in the island to retain profits tax free, resulting in industrial investment. This law lapsed in 1998, and manufacturing began to close. After the Cold War ended, US military bases closed. Tourism remains the mainstay of the economy. Many people are working hard to preserve the distinctive natural environment and cultural heritage of the island.

However, with the 2008 recession, tourism, as well as other economic activity, suffered a major decline. Migration off the island, particularly of people of working ages and their children, soared due to lack of economic opportunity. Population sank from about 4.4 million to 3.4 million, and continues declining. For example, the number of doctors on the island has dropped from about 14,000 to 9,000. This reduced the tax base and left an aging population in need of greater social services. Sixty percent of the island’s children and forty percent of the total population live in poverty. Infrastructure is crumbling.

Faced with the “perfect storm” of dire economics, the Commonwealth, all of its independent agencies, and many institutions and businesses faced massive deficits and bankruptcies. Rather than raise taxes or cut services, political leaders of both of the major ruling parties resorted to deficit funding to pay operating expenses with debt. By 2015, the Commonwealth and its agencies had accumulated $68 billion in debt. Given the declining economy, the debt had become unpayable. The Commonwealth and its agencies were facing default in 2016. While some of this public debt is still held by local pension funds and retirees, a large amount has been bought up by speculators at great discount.

The Commonwealth was due to default on all debt payments on July 1. This would have allowed the speculators to sue in federal court. The island faced possible court orders to pay the debt in preference to pension funds and social services. This would have created a massive social crisis.

The US Congress acted in June to pass the “PROMESA” Act in order to prevent a social crisis. The act was strongly support by Jubilee, a multi-church organization devoted to debt relief for poor countries. The Church of the Brethren is a member of the coalition, and our Office of Public Witness, and its Latin American committee members, also independently supported the act.

While a compromise between many parties, the act has several main provisions: it bars any lawsuits by creditors for up to 20 months, creates a Financial Control Board (called the “Junta” in Puerto Rico), authorizes the board to investigate and oversee the finances of the island, and authorizes the board to negotiate debt reduction with the creditors. It aims to create breathing room to deal with the problem, to reestablish the credibility of the government’s financial management, and to renegotiate the debt in a manner that recognizes the social and economic needs of the populace.

While the “Junta” is resented by many, there seems to be a loss of faith in local officials and a reluctant acceptance of the necessity of the board, if it gives priority to the wellbeing of the populace over the creditors.

What are we to do as Christians and a church? First we must pray, and lobby Congress, that the board acts to preserve the social wellbeing of the people of Puerto Rico. This is, however, only the immediate need.

A recent certified audit of the Commonwealth finances by the accounting firm of KPMA clearly stated that the island’s governmental and financial structure is simply unsustainable. Beyond debt payment, there is not enough revenue to maintain services, rebuild infrastructure, refund depleted pensions, and promote economic development.

Many on the island feel that the current crisis has forcefully demonstrated the need to resolve, once and for all, the status question. There is a growing consensus that the Commonwealth, as a colonial structure, is not working. As one sign read in a recent demonstration, “The problem is not the Junta, it’s the colony.” Resolution, many believe, will require statehood or independence, both of which will require action by the US government.

To improve economic conditions, we must pray for and lobby Congress for the following: an end to the law requiring imports in US shipping, payments for Medicare/Medicaid that equal those in the states, greater aid to education, laws to promote outside investment in the island, oversight of the Financial Control Board. Ultimately, if the island seeks statehood or independence, we must support that decision and lobby Congress to grant statehood, or financial aid to ease a transition to independence.

In the meantime, come on down! The island and its people are as lovely as ever.

-- Stephanie Robinson works with the Office of Public Witness covering Latin America and is from Oak Grove Church of the Brethren. Paul Parker is part of Washington City Church of the Brethren, has family in Puerto Rico, and travels there extensively. Find this posted on the Office of Public Witness blog at http://blog.brethren.org/2016/report-on-crisis-in-puerto-rico .





5) Office of Public Witness staff connect with visiting Korean church delegation

By Jesse Winter

The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) hosted a delegation from the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) this week to advocate for a permanent peace treaty between North and South Korea. The Church of the Brethren is a member organization of the NCC, and staff of the Office of Public Witness participated in events with the Korean delegation. Delegation members visited with key members of Congress, White House officials, and members of the ecumenical community to discuss prospects for peace.

This visit coincided with the 63rd anniversary of the July 27 armistice agreement that ended a three-year war between North and South Korea in 1953. Continuing tensions between the North and South, compounded by the presence of US troops in South Korea, have lapsed into threats of violence and outright confrontation between the two nations periodically since the armistice was signed. These critical relations highlight the urgency of the delegation’s call for a diplomatic negotiation of a permanent peace treaty.

On July 28, this tense reality came to light when a top North Korean diplomat spoke out against new US sanctions imposed on North Korea on July 6, stating that the US had “crossed the red line” and that “we regard this extraordinary crime of the US as a declaration of war.”

The Korean church delegation specifically challenged the effectiveness of sanctions imposed on North Korea and noted their negative impact on vulnerable populations on the Korean peninsula.

In order to lessen tension between nations and to foster reconciliation between North and South Korea, the delegation also warned against the installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile and radar system in South Korea, and called for global nuclear disarmament.

These lofty goals address the heart of being followers of Christ in an increasingly militarized world.

-- Jesse Winter has been serving as a Brethren Volunteer Service worker with the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C.





6) BRF annual dinner receives message to ‘Carry the Light into the Workplace’

A women's singing group at the annual BRF dinner at Annual Conference 2016
Photo by Regina Holmes

A women's singing group at the annual BRF dinner at Annual Conference 2016

By Karen Garrett

The Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF) held its annual dinner meeting in Greensboro, N.C., on Saturday evening July 2, during the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. The room was well filled and the sounds of fellowship abounded. Special music shared by the Glory Girls from the area of White Oak Church of the Brethren in Atlantic Northeast District preceded the evening’s message. 

The message, “Carry the Light into the Workplace,” was presented by Larry Rohrer, a minister at Shanks Church of the Brethren in Southern Pennsylvania District. “Definition of carry--support or hold as you transport something from one place to another.... Carry the light carefully or it might go out,” he said. “Our house may be the most important workplace in our life. Carrying the light begins at home...daily.”

He shared five responsibilities when carrying the light in workplaces:

1. Realize that our job is a mission field. We work with many people who need this powerful light, and we may be among the few people in their lives who have the light.

The BRF dinner speaker Larry Rohrer focused on carrying the light of Christ into the workplace
Photo by Regina Holmes

2. Showcase God’s truth. “Let God's word speak for itself, have Bible verses ready, at hand,” Rohrer said. “Take an ‘unseen partner’ to work by praying, silently, everywhere you go...copier, water cooler....”

3. Attitude is everything. Do we complain, or do we exhibit trust in God in each situation? Consecrate your work station, and act like it is a place where God is present.

4. Words matter. It is easy to fall into the world’s ways and words. Remember, co-workers are listening. Be prepared to share, but do this sharing on your own time, off the clock. Sharing God’s words “on the clock” is stealing your employer’s time.

5. Have a servant heart. Actions speak louder than words. Be helpful and aware of the needs of others.

“Carrying the Light means,” Rohrer said, “doing what Jesus would do in every circumstance.”

-- Karen Garrett was one of the volunteer writers on the 2016 Annual Conference News Team.







7) War looms on their borders, but life goes on: A report from Iraqi Kurdistan

A construction worker in Iraqi Kurdistan
Photo by Peggy Gish

A construction worker in Iraqi Kurdistan

By Peggy Faw Gish

Even in the 110 F. heat, Kamal* works daily as part of a construction crew, building a several-story-high building in our residential neighborhood of the city of Suleimani. He stopped a moment, in the hot sun, to pose for my photo, not minding the short break from his work.

Every day, early morning until late in the evening, Shorsh* and a crew of three other men slap out dough into large thin discs and bake them, and lay them out on an open table. Eight large rounds of bread cost a little less than a US dollar. People of all ages mill around his shop, buying fresh bread for their families.

A few doors away, a clothing shop opens only in the evenings, when there is some relief from the intense heat and more people amble along the street to shop. A few will also stop at the ice cream shop next door. Others will visit a grocery shop where Rebaz,* his wife, or any of their three older children, greet me and other customers with a smile and help us find what we need. 

Life is more secure and stable in the Kurdish region, compared to other areas of Iraq. Yet even here, the daily life for the average Iraqi Kurd is challenged by general social and economic difficulties, poverty, and the needs of displaced persons coming in from other areas of the country. Even public school teachers and lower level government workers have been hit economically. Most of them, except for the Peshmerga (Kurdish military forces), have in the past year received just a fraction or their salaries, or none at all, for months at a time. In an economy weakened by massive corruption and supported by oil revenues, the drop in global oil prices has certainly had an effect on government ability to pay their workers. But it is more than that. Because the Kurdish region has been selling and keeping the profits from their own oil sales on the international market, the Iraqi central government in Baghdad no longer gives the Kurdistan Regional Government their previous allotment of 17 percent of Iraq’s oil revenues.

A baker at work in Iraqi Kurdistan
Photo by Peggy Gish

A baker at work in Iraqi Kurdistan

People here are keenly aware of the fighting going on with ISIS (locally called, “Daesh”) at the southern borders of their Kurdish region, and have not dismissed the possibility of the violence coming into their communities. The closest unit of Daesh forces to Suleimani is a two-hour drive away, in an area just south of Kirkuk. Many families have members who are on active duty with the Peshmerga, maintaining the protective border from Daesh that extends more than 200 miles across northern Iraq--from the city of Sinjar, near the Syrian border, to the edges of the city of Kirkuk. 

In spite of their concerns about the fighting and what that will mean for the future of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, and in spite of the daily economic troubles, daily life for the people of Iraqi Kurdistan goes on. It goes on in the city streets and in the hot and dusty roads winding through the smaller towns and villages, for the laborer, shop keepers, and the children playing soccer in the field three blocks away. People find time to welcome us graciously into their lives. Children are born here and loved by their families as they grow up with uncertain futures.

“Life goes on, because it must,” a Kurdish friend told me. “What other choice do we have?”

*Names changed

-- Peggy Faw Gish recently returned to Iraqi Kurdistan for another term as a volunteer with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). She is a Church of the Brethren member and peace activist who has served numerous times on the CPT team in Iraq, and also has volunteered with the Nigeria Crisis Response.






8) ‘Ventures’ program aims to serve more congregations with donation-based model

Ventures in Christian Discipleship, a program of McPherson College

By Adam Pracht

Since it started four years ago, the “Ventures in Christian Discipleship” program at McPherson (Kan.) College has focused on providing small church congregations with useful, affordable education. With the course offerings in 2016-17, Ventures is about to become even more affordable and, therefore, even more useful.

Karlene Tyler, director of alumni and constituent relations, said that the upcoming courses will be available to attendees by donation, rather than on a set per-person or per-church fee as in previous years.

The hope is to serve church membership of all ages and education levels to offer them new skills and understanding that will lift up their home congregations.

“We want to be of service to the greater church by offering these presentations to people, not based on the ability to pay,” Tyler said, “but based on the quest for knowledge, sharing, and serving congregations.”

For those who want to attend an online Ventures course for continuing education credit, a minimal fee of just $10 per course is all that’s required.

This year’s courses will include classes on congregational ethics, an in-depth look at the book of Chronicles and the Gospel of Mark, and going beyond Sunday school in the development of a church’s spiritual education.

Although the classes are relevant to congregations of all sizes, the particular emphasis on small congregations was chosen because few Church of the Brethren congregations west of the Mississippi River have worship attendance above 60 people. This means that often these congregations cannot afford full-time pastoral leadership and must rely on lay leaders. McPherson College is committed to using its connections and resources to fulfill this critical training need.

Class focuses are in:
-- positive envisioning of the small church,
-- spiritual nurture/training,
-- human justice and world issues, and
-- small-church functions/how-to issues.

Ventures receives significant financial support from McPherson College, as well as guidance and resources from the Church of the Brethren’s Western Plains District, Northern Plains District, Missouri/Arkansas District, and Illinois/Wisconsin District, as well as the Plains to Pacific Roundtable, and other individual donors.

All courses are online and simply require an Internet connection and web browser. A high-speed Internet connection and externally-powered speakers are recommended for the best experience. All times listed are in Central Time. To learn more about Ventures in Christian Discipleship and to register for courses, visit www.mcpherson.edu/ventures .

-- Adam Pracht is public relations coordinator for McPherson College.





9) Brethren bits

Youth Peace Travel Team with a group at Camp Pine Lake, summer of 2016

“Hello from among the miles of cornfield!” writes the Youth Peace Travel Team in its most recent blogpost at http://blog.brethren.org/2016/youth-peace-travel-team-camp-pine-lake . This past week the team was “blessed to fellowship with the Senior High at Camp Pine Lake. These youth blew us away with their many gifts of singing, sharing their journey, and bracelet making.” Team members this summer are Phoebe Hart of Oak Grove Church of the Brethren in Virlina District, Kiana Simonson of Modesto Church of the Brethren in Pacific Southwest District, Jenna Walmer of Palmyra Church of the Brethren in Atlantic Northeast District, and Sara White of Stone Church of the Brethren in Middle Pennsylvania District. Follow their travels to Church of the Brethren camps and events across the nation at http://blog.brethren.org/category/youth-peace-travel-team .

-- Remembrance: L. Gene Bucher, 79, died on July 22 at Lancaster (Pa.) General Hospital. He was a member of the former General Board of the Church of the Brethren, and was a denominational representative to the National Council of Churches (NCC). He also wrote Bible study curriculum for Brethren Press. He was an ordained minister and a graduate of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College and of Bethany Theological Seminary, where he received a doctor of ministry degree in 1981. As pastor, he served Church of the Brethren congregations in West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. In district leadership roles, he served as district moderator for three different districts including Atlantic Northeast District. He was an active member of Lancaster Church of the Brethren where he sang in the choir, taught Sunday school, and was a substitute leader of the morning prayer breakfast. He was married for 59 years to Fern (Liskey) Bucher. He is survived by daughters Debra Bucher of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., married to Mark Colvson, and Beth Martin of Terre Hill, Pa., married to Loren Martin, as well as grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 30, at 11 a.m. at Lancaster Church of the Brethren. The family will receive friends at a luncheon following the service. Memorial gifts are received to the Lancaster Church of the Brethren Youth Program. Find the full obituary at www.legacy.com/obituaries/ldnews/obituary.aspx?pid=180762313#sthash.ewpL2CQt.dpuf .

-- The Church of the Brethren seeks to fill a fulltime hourly position of conference and event assistant for Congregational Life Ministries. The major responsibilities of this multi-faceted position are to enhance and support the functions of Congregational Life Ministries conferences and special events through administration of a variety of tasks including support for the directing team, use of conference and event databases, assistance in program promotion, preparation for conferences, responding to various inquiries and issues as they arise, maintenance of paper and electronic files, coordination of work with other support staff, and other duties appropriate to the position. Required skills and knowledge include strong communication skills in English, both verbal and written; preference given for proficiency in Spanish and willingness to assist with translation; ability to problem solve, prioritize tasks, and work both independently and collaboratively; knowledge of financial processes; ability to handle sensitive information and maintain confidentiality; ability to communicate effectively and to deal graciously with the public; ability to work with and take direction from multiple supervisors, to be readily adaptable to change, and to work well with multi-dimensional programs to meet deadlines; excellent organizational skills, attention to detail, and ability to balance complex assignments and simultaneous tasks; ability to work with established style guides with an eye for print and image design; appreciation for Church of the Brethren values; sensitivity to other cultures and persons of various ages and abilities; ability to work as part of a diverse team. Two or more years of office experience required. A high school diploma or commensurate experience is required, as is proficiency in Windows-based computer systems and Microsoft Office Suite, particularly Word, Excel, and Outlook, and ability and willingness to learn other software programs. This position is based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Applications will be received beginning immediately and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Qualified candidates are invited to request the application and position description by contacting the Church of the Brethren Office of Human Resources, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367; humanresources@brethren.org . The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

-- Ambassador Warren Clark announced his retirement as executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) this week after leading the organization for the past eight years. The CMEP board has named Mae Elise Cannon as the new executive director, effective Aug. 1. Clark has headed CMEP since January 2008. During his tenure, he arranged meetings for church representatives with administration officials at the highest levels within the United States and foreign governments, and expanded CMEP’s grassroots network nationwide for targeted advocacy by supporters from every state and congressional district. Cannon is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) and formerly served as senior director of Advocacy and Outreach for World Vision US in Washington, D.C. She also has been consultant to the Middle East for child advocacy issues for Compassion International in Jerusalem; executive pastor of Hillside Covenant Church located in Walnut Creek, Calif.; and director of development and transformation for extension ministries at Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Ill. She received her doctorate in American History with a minor in Middle Eastern studies at the University of California (Davis) focusing on the history of the American Protestant church in Israel and Palestine. CMEP is a coalition of 22 national church denominations and organizations including the Church of the Brethren, working to encourage US policies that actively promote a just, lasting, and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ensuring security, human rights, and religious freedom for all people of the region.

-- The National Farm Worker Ministry has an immediate opening for a fulltime coordinator for its Youth and Young Adult Network (YAYA) based out of Orlando, Fla. “This is an exciting opportunity to be a part of the historic farm worker movement and to join a progressive organization of young and old alike committed to self-determination for the people who work our fields and whose labor puts food on our tables every day,” said the announcement. The National Farm Worker Ministry is seeking a passionate and experienced candidate. YAYAs organize their communities in support of farm workers, educating people and institutions about the conditions facing farm workers, and mobilizing them to support farm worker campaigns for justice. The YAYA coordinator builds relationships between YAYA members and farm worker groups as well as mentors group leadership. Applicants need experience organizing in the social justice arena and proven ability to relate to young adults and people of diverse cultures and faiths. Fluency in English and Spanish is highly preferred. The National Farm Worker Ministry is a faith-based organization committed to justice for and empowerment of farm workers. Since its organization in 1971, it has supported farm-worker-led efforts to improve wages and working and living both regionally and nationally. Salary range is $32,000-34,000, based on experience. Benefits are included. To apply send a cover letter, resume, and three references, including contact information, to yayaposition@nfwm.org .  Review of resumes will begin Aug. 8 and will continue until the position is filled. For the full position description go to http://nfwm.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/YAYACoordinator2016.pdf .

Twa women pick maize with Congolese Brethren.
Photo by Ron Lubungo

Twa women pick maize with Congolese Brethren.

-- Church of the Brethren partners in three countries--the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi--will meet Aug. 15-19 for an African Great Lakes Batwa Conference. The Batwa, also known as Twa, are a hunter-gatherer people whose livelihood is imperiled by constant violence in the region. Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups also will be represented. The conference is supported by the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Initiative and Emerging Global Mission Fund.

-- The Global Mission Prayer Guide has shared requests for prayer for South Sudan this week, as well as this summer’s Church of the Brethren workcamps, a reconciliation tour by leaders of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethen in Nigeria), and a theological training for Brethren in Spain, among other prayer requests. “Pray that long-awaited peace in South Sudan may one day arrive, even as violence is renewed. Pray for all those affected by the eruption of escalated violent conflict between the country’s two dominant groups,” said the request. “May God comfort those grieving loved ones. The government estimates approximately 275 people have been killed this past week, but that number is likely much higher. Pray for the tens of thousands of people fleeing the violence, joining the hundreds of thousands of people already displaced and in desperate need for food and resources. Lord, have mercy.”

-- The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership this week hosted five students for the year’s TRIM/EFSM Orientation for the Training in Ministry and Education for Shared Ministry programs. The orientation was held at Bethany Seminary in Richmond, Ind. Bethany president Jeff Carter and dean Steve Schweitzer joined the students for lunch and conversation on one day, and the students also met with interim director of the Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry, Joe Detrick. The academy staff who hosted the orientation include Julie Hostetter, Carrie Eikler, Fran Massie, Amy Gall Ritchie, and Nancy Sollenberger Heishman.

Belita Mitchell is the speaker for the 46th Annual Dunker Church Service will be held in the restored Dunker Church at the Antietam National Battlefield.

Belita Mitchell is the speaker for the 46th Annual Dunker Church Service will be held in the restored Dunker Church at the Antietam National Battlefield.

-- The 46th Annual Dunker Church Service will be held in the restored Dunker Church at the Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Md., on Sunday, Sept. 18, at 3 p.m. This service will take place on the 154th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam and commemorates the peace witness of the Brethren during the Civil War. Belita Mitchell, pastor at Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren, will be the preacher. The event is sponsored by Mid-Atlantic District and is open to the public. For more information contact one of the three Church of the Brethren pastors who are helping to coordinate the event: Eddie Edmonds at 304-267-4135, Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey at 301-733-3565, or Ed Poling at 301-766-9005.

-- A number of congregations in Ohio are hosting disaster ministry events in August. Happy Corner Church of the Brethren holds an Ice Cream Social Fundraiser on Saturday, Aug. 6, from 4-7 p.m. Greenville Church of the Brethren hosts a Sewing Bee on Saturday, Aug. 13, starting at 9 a.m., for the purpose of making school bags for Church World Service kits (bring your sewing machine, an extension cord, and a sack lunch). A School Kit Assembly will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 17, at 7 p.m. at Mill Ridge Village Community Center in Union, Ohio, to assemble school kits for Church World Service, with a goal to assemble 1,000 school kits.

-- Jeff Carter, president of Bethany Theological Seminary, will be the featured guest at a Practice of Ministry Day on Saturday, Aug. 13, sponsored by the Christian Growth Institute and hosted by Montezuma Church of the Brethren in Dayton, Va. The theme will be “Paul’s Journey from Thessalonians to Romans.” The program is open to students, pastors, and others. Ordained ministers may earn .6 continuing education units. The deadline to register is July 29. For a registration form, e-mail nuchurch@aol.com. For more information, contact Sarah Long at ahntsarah@hotmail.com .

-- On Saturday, Aug. 13, Pinecrest Community’s Good Samaritan Banquet will be served at the Grove Community Center on the Pinecrest campus in Mt. Morris, Ill. Dinner reservations, requested by Aug. 4, cost $75 per person. Proceeds benefit the community’s Good Samaritan Fund.

-- “Sing Me High” is the title of a family friendly, alcohol-free music festival at CrossRoads, the Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center in Harrisonburg, Va., on Saturday, Aug. 27, starting at 2 p.m. Featured musicians include the Highlander String Band, the Hatcher Boys, and the Walking Roots Band. The evening will conclude with popcorn and s’mores around a campfire. Tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for children ages 6-12, and free for children age 5 and under. Advance tickets are available at www.SingMeHigh.com or by email at singmehigh@gmail.com .

-- Southern Ohio District has announced next steps in its reconciliation process, that has included Congregational Listening Sessions and a summary report from the Reconciliation Team that was made available to each congregation. “The next step in the process is for members of the Reconciliation Teams to meet with interested persons from the Southern Ohio District in a series of face-to-face sessions to ask follow-up questions and get feedback on ideas the team has for future activities,” said the district newsletter. The district will be holding three regional meetings (East, South, and West) and the Reconciliation Team will have a presence at this fall's district conference.

-- A Multicultural Trip to the Holy Land, with leadership from Church of the Brethren pastors, is planned for Nov. 28-Dec. 5. “You are invited to participate in the unique experience of a touring through key places of biblical times in the cities of Galilee and Jerusalem during an eight day multi-cultural trip to the Holy Land,” said an invitation from Virlina District. The price of $2,850 includes roundtrip airfare from New York to Tel Aviv, four-star accommodation, transportation, and meals. For more information and a brochure contact Daniel D’Oleo at 540-892-8791 or renacer.dan@gmail.com or  Stafford C. Frederick at 540-588-5980 or staffred@cox.net .

Dunker Punks Podcast logo

-- “Dunker Punks imagine a different world, and make it so by consistently choosing Jesus’ radical love,” said an announcement of the latest Dunker Punks podcast by young adults in the Church of the Brethren. Titled “Everyday Revolution,” the podcast interviews Joshua Brockway, the Church of the Brethren’s director of Spiritual Life, on the topic of discipleship. A new co-host, Dylan Dell-Haro, takes the lead on the microphone. Find the Dunker Punks podcasts at http://arlingtoncob.org/dpp .

-- A roof raising for the Heritage Lodge at Camp Harmony in Western Pennsylvania District is scheduled for Aug. 16-25. Volunteers are needed for both roof crews and ground crews, said a district announcement. Work will include shingling, replacing windows, painting, and cooking and clean up. Housing and meals are provided to volunteers, either on a daily basis or for the whole week. Call the camp at 814-798-5885.

-- Southern Ohio District offered a new camping experience this year with Camp Safari for campers with special needs. “Our hope was to have 10 campers for the first year, but were blessed by having 15 participants,” said the district newsletter. “The camp met in the mornings into the afternoons with one overnight for the older campers. Each camper experienced unconditional love and acceptance by all the caring volunteers and leaders. The exciting activities of clowning around, making kazoos from detergent jugs, to interactive Bible stories, a talent showcase, and closing campfire brought everyone in the camp close together in the Family of God,” said the newsletter. “Such joy that abounded is difficult to describe.”

-- This weekend, two districts are holding their annual conferences: Western Plains District meets July 29-31 at McPherson (Kan.) College and at First Church of the Brethren in McPherson, on the theme “We Are One.” Joanna Davidson Smith is serving as moderator. Northern Ohio District also meets this weekend, July 29-30, at Maple Grove Church of the Brethren in Ashland, Ohio.

-- Bridgewater (Va.) College is encouraging student-church connections with leadership from campus chaplain Robbie Miller and “a dedicated group of students,” according to the Shenandoah District newsletter. The college calendar is filled with events “that many of us from the Shenandoah District take part in each year,” the newsletter noted, “including the CROP meal (Oct. 27) and walk (Oct. 30) and the Fall Spiritual Focus, this year featuring Ted & Co. Theatreworks on Sept. 27.” Go to http://files.ctctcdn.com/071f413a201/459bd5ce-e371-4fc4-b8a0-265911b7c240.pdf for a brochure about the spiritual life program at the college. Also this coming academic year, Bridgewater’s Church Travel Team is prepared to lead worship services, youth events, and Sunday school classes in local congregations in a program that provides leadership training for the travel team students and an opportunity for area churches to interact with Bridgewater. Go to http://files.ctctcdn.com/071f413a201/86bd041f-714c-47d7-803c-53e51496799d.pdf for a letter about the travel team program. Go to http://files.ctctcdn.com/071f413a201/903b1d2a-bc2d-4c94-9f17-ee49d4a17907.pdf for a form to request the team to come to your congregation.

-- The Springs of Living Water Academy for training pastors in church renewal is welcoming pastors and ministers to Tuesday morning classes starting Sept. 13, or Saturday morning classes starting Sept. 17. Both classes meet by telephone conference call from 8-10 a.m. (Eastern time). There will be five sessions offered for each class, with three weeks between sessions to allow time for reading, reflection, and interaction with a group from the congregation that walks alongside each pastor or minister.  Also, Springs leader David Young makes a “shepherding call” to each participant between each class session. “Rather than find out what is wrong and fix it, congregations find out what they are doing right and discover a focus and plan,” said an invitation to engage in the Springs training. “Pastors and ministers also enter daily spiritual disciplines using Richard Foster’s ‘Celebration of Discipline.’ The main text for the course is ‘Springs of Living Water’ by David S. Young.” Additional resources include videos on several topics, created by David Sollenberger and available on the website at www.churchrenewalservant.org . For more information or to register, call or e-mail David or Joan Young at 717-615-4515 or davidyoung@churchrenewalservant.org .

-- Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is requesting prayer for the refugees currently trapped on the Greek island of Chios, who have waited four months for their asylum reviews in unsanitary conditions. CPT in particular requests prayer for a member of the organization’s Europe team who recently found out that his cousin was among the refugees who died trying to reach Europe in a forest along the Turkish/Bulgarian border. “He had to communicate the news of the death to his family,” the prayer request said. Find out more about the work of CPT, which was started by the Historic Peace Churches including the Church of the Brethren, at www.cpt.org .

-- The Foods Resource Bank Annual Gathering will be hosted by several Growing Projects in the Sandwich, Ill., area on Aug. 5-6. Representatives from most of the 200 growing projects across the US will be in attendance, including Jim and Karen Schmidt from Polo (Ill.) Church of the Brethren. Jim Schmidt is a member of the Foods Resource Bank Board. During the event the $1,800 contributed by donors at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., will be presented to the Schmidts for this year’s Polo Growing Project, reports Howard Royer of Highland Avenue Church.

-- The international organization Doctors Without Borders, or Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), warns of a large-scale humanitarian disaster in the northern area of Borno State in northeast Nigeria. The organization estimates that there are more than 500,000 people in the area who are living in “catastrophic and unsanitary conditions” in a number of villages and towns. This area is some distance from the area of work of the Nigeria Crisis Response of the Church of the Brethren and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). MSF recently organized an exploratory mission and an emergency distribution for more than 15,000 displaced people living in dire conditions in the city of Banki, which is accessible only with a military escort. The organization is calling for the provision of more emergency aid for people in the area, reporting that displaced people there “are faced with a local economy that has collapsed, trade routes that have been cut, and crops and livestock that have been destroyed. Much of the population has been affected by months of food shortages. For children under five, in particular, the situation is especially concerning. Fifteen percent of children screened by our teams are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, putting their lives at risk.”
     In related news, on Thursday a United Nations aid convoy was attacked by Boko Haram insurgents as it traveled through northern Borno State, from Bama to Maiduguri. The convoy was carrying staff from UNICEF, UNFPA, and IOM, and a UNICEF employee and an IOM contractor were injured.

-- A film clip of a Brethren contingent carrying a large sign proclaiming “Church of the Brethren” in a Civil Rights-era march is currently part of a television advertisement for an organization of neighborhood medical centers in the Chicago area. The clip gained the attention of Ralph McFadden, coordinator for the Fellowship of Brethren Homes, who shared with Newsline his feeling that having the denomination’s Civil Rights involvement displayed in such a good light this summer “was very interesting, enlightening, and encouraging.”


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Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jeff Carter, Karen Garrett, Peggy Faw Gish, Terry Goodger, Suzanne Lay, Ralph G. McFadden, Nancy Miner, Paul Parker, Adam Pracht, Stephanie Robinson, Howard Royer, Jenny Williams, Jesse Winter, Roy Winter, David and Joan Young, 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. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is set for Aug. 5.

Go to www.brethren.org/Newsline to subscribe to the Church of the Brethren Newsline free e-mail news service and receive church news every week.