Newsline for March 25, 2016




Cross and verse


“This is my body, which is given for you” (Luke 22:19b).


1) Insurance company issues another large dividend to the Church of the Brethren

2) Disaster grants support W. Virginia bridge project, displaced people in Rwanda and DR Congo, DRSI project, Sudan mission, deported Haitians

3) Global Food Crisis Fund grants support Lybrook ministries, agriculture in Rwanda and the DR Congo

4) German Mennonite peace prize to go to EYN and Muslim partners

5) One-and-a-half years in Cameroon: An interview with an EYN district secretary

6) Webinars to focus on urban ministry

7) Brethren bits: Churches invited to provide pictures on Conference theme, personnel, Messenger Online, Earth Day Sunday focus on animals, Jones Chapel celebrates 75th, Staunton holds renewal weekend with Carol Scheppard, Washington churches vigil for Nigeria, more


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Quote of the week:

“You may have read the story from Germany last week of the auto wreck of a neo-Nazi politician named Stefan Jagsch. His car crashed into a tree, leaving him unconscious. Two Syrian refugees rescued him. They did so because he was a fellow human being in need. Even though Jagsch has not acknowledged their act of kindness (he says that since he was unconscious, he cannot confirm they actually saved him), what they did has captured the attention of countless people. As we Christians prepare to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, it is good to remember that he came not just for us, but for everyone.”

-- Jim Winkler, president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, in a reflection in the most recent e-newsletter from the NCC.
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A note to readers: The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is planned for April 15. Next week the editor is taking vacation for spring break. Please continue to send Newsline submissions to cobnews@brethren.org .
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1) Insurance company issues another large dividend to the Church of the Brethren

The Church of the Brethren has received another large dividend amounting to $63,784 from Brethren Mutual Aid and Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, through the company’s Partnership Group Program.

Brethren Mutual Aid is the sponsoring agency for the program, which rewards the annual claims experience of the congregations, camps, and districts that make up the group along with the denominational organization. Brotherhood Mutual has had a program that returns excess premiums not needed to pay losses, up to a certain level. The company has granted the dividend if the denominational group collectively enjoys a better-than-average claims experience.

There have been several years that the Church of the Brethren has received such a dividend. The amount of the dividend has varied, with last year’s thought to be the largest at $182,263.

This year’s may be the final dividend received through the program since Brotherhood Mutual has become a national company and will no longer be able to give dividends because some states do not allow excess premiums to be shared this way, and the company must abide by the most restrictive state laws.

The Annual Conference officers and interim general secretary, who make up the denomination’s Leadership Team, have decided to share this year’s dividend of $63,784 in the following manner:
-- 15 percent of the gross amount, or $9,567.60, to the Brethren Mutual Aid Share Fund, Inc.,
-- $5,000 to the new Puerto Rico District,
-- $23,000 to the other 23 districts ($1,000 each),
-- $1,000 to the Church of the Brethren finance office to pay related administrative costs, and
-- the remaining $25,216.40 to the Nigeria Crisis Fund.

For more information about Brethren Mutual Aid go to www.maabrethren.com . For more about Brotherhood Mutual visit www.brotherhoodmutual.com .

2) Disaster grants support W. Virginia bridge project, displaced people in Rwanda and DR Congo, DRSI project, Sudan mission, deported Haitians

Flooded home in Columbia, SC
Patsy Lynch/FEMA

Families had to clean out their homes after historic flooding across South Carolina at the beginning of October 2015.

Brethren Disaster Ministries staff have directed grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund to a variety of projects in recent weeks. Among them are a bridge rebuilding project in West Virginia, assistance for refugees from Burundi living in Rwanda, assistance for people displaced by violence in the DR Congo, a Disaster Recovery Support Initiative aiding a longterm recovery group in South Carolina, food assistance in South Sudan, and aid for Haitian migrants returning to Haiti from the Dominican Republic. These grants total $85,950.

West Virginia

An allocation of $25,000 supports the West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (WVA VOAD) Bridge Project, begun in response to over 300 water crossings in the state being washed out during five different flood events in 2015. Brethren Disaster Ministries has been monitoring the Bridge Project since its start, and has learned that the skills and experience required to complete a bridge are beyond the capacity of most Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers. However, this project is an important step in disaster recovery in West Virginia. The grant provides support for materials to be used in the construction of bridges, in partnership with WV VOAD and other VOAD organizations.

Rwanda

An allocation of $25,000 supports aid to refugees from Burundi who are sheltering in Rwanda, through a church that is identifying as Brethren. Since April 2015 Burundians have been fleeing their country following election violence and a failed coup. The escalating violence has included human rights violations, and some 400 or more deaths, as well as reports of a potential genocide. Families from Burundi are continuing to flee into neighboring countries. The church led by Etienne Nsanzimana is providing emergency food and supplies for 12,500 Burundian refugees, or about 2,500 families. The majority of beneficiaries are women, children, and youth in the towns of Kigali, Muhanga, and Rubavu. This grant will start the first phase of relief work in Kigali. Brethren Disaster Ministries staff will monitor the response closely and will consider additional grant requests based on program reporting, accounting, and implementation.

DR Congo

An allocation of $12,200 will assist families displaced by war and conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country has a long history of war and armed conflict, and many different brutal militia groups. In mid-October 2015, conflict in the Fizi territory of the South Kivu Province resulted in homes being burned or looted, with 18 villagers injured or killed. Survivors fled to neighboring villages for shelter and medical care. A delegation from Shalom Ministry, a ministry of the Congolese Brethren, visited and completed case management work with these displaced families and have reported needs for emergency food and household supplies. A group of Church of the Brethren from the United States traveled to Rwanda and the DR Congo recently and confirmed that many displaced people are in need of food assistance. This grant will help Shalom Ministries provide corn, beans, cooking oil, salt, a kitchen kit, dishes, and soup for 215 families including 726 women, 458 children, and 536 youth.

South Carolina

An allocation of $10,000 continues the Disaster Recovery Support Initiative (DRSI) project in South Carolina, where historic flooding occurred in October 2015. An EDF grant of $5,000 given in July 2015 helped launch this pilot.

The primary goal of the DRSI is to support more rapid and effective formation of long-term recovery groups following disasters in the United States. The DRSI is a partnership of Brethren Disaster Ministries and the disaster programs of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), deploying a three-person team of response specialists within two to six weeks of a disaster. The team will remain with the community for a period of up to 12 months and serve as a resource for local recovery efforts.

A DRSI rebuilding site has opened for volunteers from all three denominations to participate in fast-track repair work before a Brethren Disaster Ministries project site is established in South Carolina. This grant funds travel expenses to assess long-term recovery needs; costs related to setting up volunteer housing for the DRSI team and volunteers; operational expenses related to volunteer support; and, potentially, purchase of construction materials to repair homes.

The DRSI partnership project also has received outside grant money for the purchase of construction materials for use in South Carolina. This includes a total of $37,500 from the Central Carolina Community Foundation granted to the United Church of Christ and Brethren Disaster Ministries, and $50,000 from the United Way of the Midlands to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The sum of $5,000 was awarded from the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters for project costs.

South Sudan

An allocation of $10,000 responds to increasing food insecurity in South Sudan, where the Church of the Brethren has a mission led by mission worker Athanasus Ungang. The World Food Program and the United Nations report unprecedented levels of food insecurity. Nearly 25 percent of the population, or 2.8 million people, are in urgent need of food assistance, with at least 40,000 on the brink of catastrophe. Ungang has reported that the children, women, and elderly in the area of Payam Pacidi are going through the “toughest time in their lives” as starvation is increasing. There are 2,100 households and another 1,000 individuals in Payam Pacidi who many not survive without some type of aid. This grant will provide emergency food (maize, beans, oil, and salt) for 2,100 households and 1,000 individuals in Payam Pacidi, and will also provide seeds so these subsistence farmers can plant crops this spring.

Dominican Republic and Haiti

An allocation of $3,750 supports the work of the Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic (DR), which has been carrying out a relief effort for Haitian migrants returning to Haiti from the DR. The Dominican church has registered more than 500 Haitian people for naturalization in the DR, averting a crisis for these families, but tens of thousands of others face a major unpublicized refugee crisis where little international support is available.

Some people of Haitian descent who were living in the DR have been forcibly deported to Haiti, while others have fled across the border due to fear of deportation and an increasingly hostile environment. Without connections in Haiti, they live in squatter camps in a remote area just over the border, with no sanitation or safe drinking water, very little food, no government services, and very limited relief activities. A cholera epidemic has developed and most of the children are severely malnourished.

This grant supports a mobile medical clinic for Haitian refugees near Pedernales, in the DR, or Anse a Pitres in Haiti. The mobile clinic, staffed by Dominican medical workers, will be part of the broader relief effort the Dominican Brethren are organizing. The grant provides stipends for doctors and nurses, funds medicines and medical supplies, purchases Creole Bibles for the camps, and covers food, lodging, and a rental vehicle for the response team.

For more information about Brethren Disaster Ministries go to www.brethren.org/bdm . For more information about the Emergency Disaster Fund go to www.brethren.org/edf .

3) Global Food Crisis Fund grants support Lybrook ministries, agriculture in Rwanda and the DR Congo

Recent grants allocated from the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) support expansion of community gardening at the Lybrook Communities Ministries in New Mexico, and two agriculture projects that serve the Twa people in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These three grants total $36,180.

New Mexico

An allocation of $15,000 supports community gardening expansion at Lybrook Community Ministries, a Church of the Brethren-related organization in Cuba, N.M. The grant will cover the costs of purchasing and setting up four large un-heated high tunnels or greenhouses, which will extend the growing season in this high desert area by several months each year. This expansion of the community garden will allow for greater production of vegetables for local families. The grant also will support the purchase of fencing, water collection tanks, wooden stands, fertilizer, topsoil, and two tillers, along with some smaller gardening tools. Previously, Lybrook Community Ministries received a $1,000 grant for the community gardening effort from the Going to the Garden initiative of the GFCF and the Office of Public Witness.

Rwanda

An allocation of $11,180 helps expand agriculture work among the Twa people of Rwanda. The project is being administered by ETOMR (Evangelistic Training Outreach Ministries of Rwanda), a ministry of the Evangelical Friends Church of Rwanda. The grant supports agricultural inputs and land rental to expand the project to include 60 new families in both an existing potato growing effort, and a new maize (corn) growing initiative. A major benefit of the project beyond the potatoes grown for consumption will come from the sale of potatoes to buy annual health insurance for participating families. Previous GFCF grants to this organization in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 totaled $24,026. Since 2011, Carlisle (Ohio) Church of the Brethren also has been supporting this project.

DR Congo

An additional allocation of $10,000 funds agriculture work in the DR Congo, primarily with 250 Twa families. The recipient of the grant, Shalom Ministry for Reconciliation and Development (SHAMIRED), is a ministry of Eglise des Freres au Congo, a church of the Congo Brethren. This In addition to serving the Twa families, 50 Congo Brethren families will be working under the direction of SHAMIRED to raise crops such as peanuts, cassava, bananas, corn, and vegetables. In addition, funds will support the purchase of a motorcycle for use by the agronomist for training activities. Previous allocations to this project were made in 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015, totaling $22,500.

For more information about the Global Food Crisis Fund go to www.brethren.org/gfcf .

4) German Mennonite peace prize to go to EYN and Muslim partners

A peace prize will be awarded to Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and its Muslim partners who have cooperated in the “Christian and Muslim Peace Initiative” known as CAMPI. The announcement of the prize was made in a release from Mission 21, a partner organization of EYN that is based in Switzerland.

The Michael Sattler Peace Prize for 2016 will be awarded on May 20 in Rottenburg am Neckar, Germany, and will provide 2,000 Euros for the interfaith effort in Nigeria. Guests from Nigeria who are expected to attend the award ceremony include EYN peace coordinator Ephrahim Kadala, a mediator and college teacher Hussaini Shuaibu, and Muslim employees of CAMPI.

The release noted that despite the violence EYN and its moderator Muslim neighbors have experienced from the Boko Haram insurgency, “the EYN is sticking to the peace message of the Gospel.... She teaches its members and particularly the younger generation in the biblical doctrine of peace and reconciliation, establishing contacts with Muslims to dialogue.... With its programs for peace and justice, they work against the economic and political causes of the violence.”

The Michael Sattler Peace Prize was awarded for the first time on the 50th anniversary of the German Mennonite Peace Committee (DMFK), according to the release. It commemorates the execution of the Anabaptist martyr Michael Sattler on May 21, 1527.

Find out more about the German Mennonite Peace Committee at www.dmfk.de . Find the release in its original German at www.mission-21.org/news/alle-news/meldungen-alle-blogs/archive/2016/Februar/article/nigeria-friedenspreis-geht-an-eyn-und-muslimische-partner .

5) One-and-a-half years in Cameroon: An interview with an EYN district secretary

A worship service held by Nigerian Brethren leaders with refugees in Cameroon
Photo courtesy of EYN

A worship service held by Nigerian Brethren leaders with refugees in Cameroon

By Zakariya Musa

Luka Tada was a district secretary of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) serving the District Church Council (DCC) Attagara in Gwoza Local Government in Borno State. He began his service as a district secretary before the Christian population of the area was forced out of Nigeria by the Boko Haram insurgents, and fled to Cameroon. Tada, a former carpenter, on receiving Christ embraced evangelism work among the villages around Mandara Moutain, such as Gavva, Kusarhe, Diyaghwe, Ghwa’a, Kunde, Bokko, and Chibok. He received pastoral training at Kulp Bible College, the EYN college in Kwarhi, and at John Guli Bible School in Michika in Adamawa State.

Among other surviving pastors in the area, he fled with his church members to Cameroon where UNICEF placed them in a camp in Minawawo. In 2014, the Cameroon government recorded tens of thousands of refugees in the camp, both Christians and Muslims. Since then Tada has been busy mediating between the refugees, who are mainly EYN members and Nigerian Brethren. In this interview, he tells more about their time in Cameroon:

What happened that moved you to Cameroon?

It started with Barawa, on Nov. 6, 2013, when Boko Haram attacked. Then they attacked Arboko, Baladgaghulza, Gavva, Ngoshe, then came back to Gavva. Afterward they attacked Chinene,  Jubrilli, and Zamga. They attacked Attagara several times. Then in 2014 they arrived from the Sambisa Forest with about 300 motorcycles and 12 vehicles including 5 armored tankers. Before their arrival, they phoned that soldiers were coming for peace talks. We awaited them, not knowing they were Boko Haram. They killed 68 people and continued until the villagers and Boko Haram battled. On hearing that Attagara, as the main Christian town in the area, was ravaged, other villages ran to the mountains, to Cameroon, and to different directions.

How many people were killed in those churches, do you know?

In  Zamga, Cholera killed 8 people and 1 died from snake bite. Other people moved to Mozogwo where the Cholera outbreak continued and killed 82 plus 68 in Zamga and Mozogwo, including those who died from hunger in the mountains.

Did you move at once or did you run in groups?

We ran in different directions, but other people eventually collided with Boko Haram on their way.

Tell us how you started life in Cameroon.

The Dughwade people first arrived the Minawawo camp, which was in the bush, and were asked to clear the bush. They were well fed at the beginning, even with meat and bread since they were not many people up until six months later when other groups arrived. Then there were no Muslims in the camp. When Boko Haram sacked Bama, Banki, and other Gwoza areas, we were mixed with Christians and Muslims together, to avoid forming violent groups in the camp.

How many church denominations are there in the camp?

First there were EYN members, followed by COCIN, Anglican, National Evangelical Church, ECWA, Redeemed Church of Christ, and Catholic Church--which arrived with 11, 000 people at once. These are the main denominations there in the camp.

How do you worship with such numbers?

Now that the number is large, I have divided them into six different worship places based on distance. The camp is about seven square kilometers.

Do you conduct church activities there, such as Women’s Fellowship, choir, Youth Fellowship, etc?

Yes. We have all the church groups that existed in our former churches in Nigeria.

Who feeds that large number of people?

It was not easy at the beginning, but later on experience was gained on food distribution. In the beginning, for example, you could find 5,000 people who had not gotten food after a distribution. But gradually it became easier. Now they have divided the crowd into three parts, with enough officials to manage us.

What achievement would you say people made in Cameroon?

People are getting education. The Cameroon government is taking it seriously. There is kindergarten, primary school, and secondary school. They have sponsored 12 teachers to go to university.

Tell us about children’s education in Cameroon, which is French speaking, when you are from an English speaking country?

They teach English. Most of the teachers come from Bamenda, an English speaking region in Cameroon, but they teach France as a subject.

Do you have enough teachers?

Yes.

Who sponsors them?

The Cameroon government or UNICEF pays them.

As a parent, do you think the children are getting enough education?

Yes, they are. We can see from the performances of the children that they are being kept busy in learning. I am even learning French from my eight-year-old daughter.

Tell us about social activities such as marriage, market, etc.

The marketplace is going well. I am proud of many people who are doing something to help themselves through small-scale businesses. And the people of Cameroon are being patient with the crowd around their farms. They have concern for us despite the damages we can to do their farms.

Many people in the camp are even coming to Mubi in Nigeria to buy things to sell in Cameroon just to earn a living. We had issues when one set of soldiers asked the business-minded people from the camp to give them daily payments as they went to their business places, but this has been resolved. And that set of soldiers was transferred.

Marriages are taking place between tribes. We have conducted church marriages and we are happy as pastors. We have tried to avoid cost implications in marriages.

As a pastor what is your view on Muslim-Christian relationship in the camp?

In any group of people you can find violent people. We had some issues with those who came from Potocol and Gamboru Ngala, which I think was because they were not used to living with other religions like Christianity. But there is not much problem now, we are living cordially.

What are people’s expectations on their return to Nigeria?

People want to come back to Nigeria, but to their homelands, not to other places in Nigeria.

What are your main challenges?

No certainty of when to leave the camp. We don’t have enough water. There is no farm land to plant even some vegetables. And where to get firewood. There is no capital for many people who want to start small businesses. Disease goes around the camp when there is an outbreak.

Is the Nigerian government assisting you there?

Not really. There was a time they brought 300 bags of rice, cooking oil, and other things. It could not go anywhere in a population of about 80,000 people. On the church side, we still need our EYN leaders to visit us, and want our leaders to find farmland where people can go to farm.

-- Zakariya Musa is on the communications staff of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

UPCOMING EVENTS

6) Webinars to focus on urban ministry

A new series of webinars will focus on urban ministry, co-sponsored by the Church of the Brethren Congregational Life Ministries. Dates and times, topics, presenter information, and brief descriptions follow:

April 14, 2:30-3:30 p.m. (Eastern time), “Experiencing Gentrification in the East End of London with Squatters and Anarchists,” is presented by Rob Schellert, a church planter who has worked in London's radical anarchist and squatter communities. Increasingly, our world is becoming more urban, with over half of the planet’s population living in urban communities. As a result, cities are facing the growing problem of gentrification, in which an influx of affluent people into a neighborhood displaces poorer residents and changes the character of the area. This webinar explores how the process of gentrification has affected marginalized communities and how the church may respond.

May 5, 2:30-3:30 p.m. (Eastern time), “The Practical Struggles Faced by Asylum Seekers and How the Christian Community Can Respond,” is presented by Rachel Bee, who runs a small aid organization working with refugees and asylum seekers in Easton, Bristol, in the United Kingdom.. This webinar will examine the tensions of living with destitute asylum seekers in community, reflect on theology in light of how angry people may get as they are immersed in this world, and tell stories of courage and chaos and how nonetheless Jesus inhabits the world even when things go wrong.

May 26, 2:30-3:30 p.m. (Eastern time), “Convening Conversations with Muslim Women,” is presented by Jan Pike, who lived in the Indian sub-continent for more than 20 years before finding a home and work in Bristol, England, as an ESOL tutor mostly to Somali women.. The webinar will explore how to use conversational spaces to convene with those from culturally and socially diverse backgrounds, including questions such as: Which questions enable the glimpsing of another way of being? Can we hope for intentionally conversational spaces to be transformative for all involved? To what extent can we see conversation as a deeply contextual and radically hospitable approach to mission?

June 15, 2:30-3:30 p.m. (Eastern time), “Forming a Christian Community in the Midst of Our Struggle for Good Mental Health: Reflections from the Geoff Ashcroft Community,” is presented by Phil Warburton, part of E1 Community Church in the East End of London and a development worker with Urban Expression, an agency deploying teams to do missional work in marginalized communities.. Social isolation and associated mental health problems are likely to become one of the greatest killers in the western world. Isolation is also the enemy of Christian community. What can we do as churches to connect with each other in health ways that lead to the flourishing of church and society?

A previously announced webinar to be presented by Dennis Edwards on the topic, “Jesus and God’s Revelation,” has been moved to April 21, at 2:30 p.m. (Eastern time).

Find out more and connect with one of these online webinars at www.brethren.org/webcasts .

7) Brethren bits

 Messenger April 2016

Messenger Online is a new website from Messenger, the Church of the Brethren magazine. The new website features some of the articles that have been published in the print magazine, plus other online-only content. It is designed to be a web-based addition to the print magazine, which continues to be mailed to subscribers 10 times a year. Find the new Messenger Online at www.brethren.org/messenger .

Shown above: the cover of the April 2016 Messenger, which was mailed to subscribers last week. The cover photo is by Ralph Miner.

-- The 2016 Annual Conference theme is “Carry the Light.” The Program and Arrangements Committee is inviting all congregations to send creative pictures of different ministries--such as the choir, youth activities, mission work, fundraising events, fellowship--that show how each congregation carries the light of Christ. The planners will be creating a “congregational collage” that will be displayed on the video screens in the main hall before and after gatherings for worship and business. Brethren videographer David Sollenberger will help develop the collage. The committee requests no more than 10 pictures in jpg format from each congregation, including one of the church building. The pictures may be e-mailed as jpg attachments to accob2016@gmail.com with the subject “Collage and [name of congregation].” Pictures are due by May 15.

-- Karen Hodges has been appointed to the role of program coordinator for the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center. She brings a wide range of skills to the ministry and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. She most recently served as administrative support assistant to the director of Undergraduate Studies, School of Business Administration, at Penn State University in Harrisburg, Pa. Prior to that role, she was coordinator of Campus Events and Scheduling at Elizabethtown College. She is an active member of Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren. 

-- The Youth and Young Adult Office of the Church of the Brethren is seeking a young adult to serve through Brethren Volunteer Service as an assistant to director Becky Ullom Naugle. This position, while giving a BVSer the chance to work with youth, young adults, and their advocates, will also provide opportunity to live out Christian values and consider ministry as a vocation. Ideally, the volunteer would begin in June 2016 and serve through July 2017. The volunteer’s primary responsibilities include helping to coordinate Christian Citizenship Seminar 2017, National Junior High Conference 2017, and Young Adult Conference 2017. Additional responsibilities include helping to host the National Youth Cabinet and the Young Adult Steering Committee during their meetings, as well as helping to coordinate resources for National Junior High Sunday and National Youth Sunday. Volunteers who have graduated from college and are at least 21 are the most prepared to serve in this role. Are you interested in serving or know someone who might be? For more information and/or an application, please be in touch with Becky Ullom Naugle at 847-429-4385 or bullomnaugle@brethren.org .

-- The Office of Public Witness invites congregations to celebrate Earth Day Sunday on April 22 by reflecting on the importance of animals as a part of God’s Creation, and our relationships with them. “Furry, feathered, finned, four-legged, and winged, the diversity of God’s creatures inspires wonder and awe,” said the announcement. “From Noah’s Ark, to barn animals surrounding baby Jesus, to Isaiah’s vision of the lion dwelling with the lamb, God’s creatures play an important role in the Bible. In the Psalms, creatures give praise to God, having their own relationship with God separate from humanity. Thus, knowing and loving God’s creatures helps us better know our Creator.” The Creation Justice Ministries of the former National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Program, has put together a collection of materials for use on Earth Day Sunday including biblical reflections, worship resources, suggested hymns, ideas for action, and more on the theme “Care for God’s Creatures.” To download the guide and other worship resources, visit www.creationjustice.org/creatures.html .

-- Jones Chapel Church of the Brethren in Figsboro, Va., celebrates its 75th anniversary on April 10. The morning worship speaker will be former pastor Tom Fralin. The worship service will be followed by a fellowship meal.

-- Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren is issuing an invitation to a Spiritual Renewal Weekend on April 16-17, led by Annual Conference moderator-elect Carol Scheppard. She serves as vice president and academic dean of Bridgewater (Va.) College. The weekend will begin with a Dessert Social on Saturday evening at 6 p.m., followed by a Service of Lessons and Hymns with Dr. Scheppard and the Bridgewater College Chorale on the theme is "In Whom Shall We Trust?  Lessons from the Exile.” On Sunday morning, a light breakfast begins at 9:30 a.m., followed by a Town Hall Meeting with Dr. Scheppard at 10 a.m., and worship at 11 a.m. with Dr. Scheppard preaching and Dr. David Bushman, president of Bridgewater College, bringing greetings. 

-- For nearly two years, members of two congregations in Wenatchee, Wash., have been praying for those harmed by terrorism in Nigeria--Brethren Baptist Church United and Sunnyslope Church of the Brethren. The group started meeting for prayer after the nearly 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped from Chibok by Boko Haram. A large inter-church group came together to pray, sing, read the names of the kidnapped girls, and create cards to send love and prayers to the girls’ families and communities. A smaller group, some of whom were raised in Nigeria in missionary families, kept meeting weekly on the church lawn for prayer, sometimes joined by those passing by on the sidewalk. “We pray for the concerns sent to us by members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria),” reports Merry Roy. Prayers have gone up for peace in the country of Nigeria, provision to the displaced, condolence for those who have lost relatives, the insurgents to change their hearts and minds, the government to be just, comfort for parents who have lost children, and release of the abducted. “When a year went by and most of the girls were still captive, we continued sharing news from Nigeria, singing and praying together monthly,” Roy adds. “We are still doing that, and we invite others to join us on the third Wednesday of each month, at 7 p.m., in the library of the Brethren Baptist Church.”

-- Beavercreek Church of the Brethren in Ohio has shared “a big thank you to the attendees of the Mutual Kumquat concert.” The concert on March 12 was a benefit for the Nigerian Nkeki family of seven with three hearing-impaired children. A report from the church said that the concert’s free-will offering, along with other donations, brought the total for the girls’ medical costs to $4,597 of the $6,500 needed for the cochlear implants and hearing aids. “The surgery needs to be accomplished quickly,” the report noted. “Women with disabilities, in Nigeria, have been observed to be more vulnerable to exploitations of various kinds such as domestic violence, workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. Providing the surgery to these girls increases their opportunities for education and higher quality of life while decreasing their chances of exploitation.” The church continues to receive donations for the girls’ medical costs, with a goal of receiving the total needed by May 1.

-- “Second Acts: A Garden Grows in Champaign” is the title of a “Wall Street Journal” article about Dawn Blackman and her work as steward of the Randolph Street Community Garden in Champaign, Ill. Blackman is a member of the Champaign Church of the Brethren, which helps finance the community garden’s upkeep and runs a food pantry that helps distribute the garden’s produce to families in the community. The article written by Kristi Essick was published on March 20. “Back in 2004, when  Dawn Blackman became the steward of the Randolph Street Community Garden in Champaign, Ill., she knew almost nothing about plants,” it reports, in part. “She just wanted the garden to remain open to the neighborhood’s mostly low-income residents.” By 2015, she told the reporter, “the garden provided free fresh produce for more than 2,000 people.” Read the full story at http://www.wsj.com/articles/second-acts-a-garden-grows-in-champaign-1458525868

-- Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren hosts a Choral Tribute to John Barr presented by the Shenandoah Valley Choral Society in concerts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 15, and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 17. Barr, who is professor of organ emeritus at Bridgewater College and organist at the Bridgewater Church, is a prolific composer of organ music. The concerts will feature his choral music compositions. Tickets will be available at the door, in advance at Red Front Supermarket and Bridgewater Foods, and online at www.singshenandoah.org .

-- Jeffrey W. Carter, president of Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., will lead a seminar at Bridgewater (Va.) College on April 5, at 3:30 p.m., speaking on the topic “Why a Seminary During Institutional Decline?” The seminar, which is free and open to the public, will take place in Bowman Hall, Room 109, and will utilize a discussion and question-and-answer format. Carter is a 1992 graduate of Bridgewater. Ordained in the Church of the Brethren, he became the 10th president of Bethany Seminary in 2013. The event is sponsored by Bridgewater’s Forum for Brethren Studies. For information contact Steve Longenecker at slongene@bridgewater.edu .

-- Bridgewater (Va.) College will celebrate 136 years of its founding on April 5, presenting three awards during a 9:30 a.m. convocation in Nininger Hall. President David W. Bushman will recognize three faculty members for excellence in teaching and scholarship: Robyn A. Puffenbarger, associate professor of biology, will receive the Ben and Janice Wade Outstanding Teacher Award; Stephen F. Baron, the Harry G.M. Jopson Professor of Biology, will receive the Martha B. Thornton Faculty Recognition Award; and Scott D. Jost, associate professor of art, will receive the Faculty Scholarship Award.

-- Jo Young Switzer, president emerita of Manchester Universityin Indiana, will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa. The ceremony will take place prior to her lecture on “Women and Leadership: Where Has Progress Gotten Us?” at 7:30 p.m. on April 5 in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig Center for Science at Juniata College. Switzer, who was Manchester’s president from 2004-14, will speak on the effective characteristics for leadership, focusing on women in leadership roles. She has published scholarly articles on women in leadership roles, such as TV anchors, college presidents, and women at the top levels of the federal government. During her presidency at Manchester, she proposed a doctoral-level pharmacy school and secured a $35 million grant for its implementation, among other achievements. She has received numerous awards, including a 2014 Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest honor the governor can bestow on a citizen of Indiana, and the 2013 Chief Executive Leadership Award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

-- Irene and John Dale, of Moorestown, N.J., who are 1958 and 1954 graduates of Juniata College respectively, have donated $3.2 million to provide funding for a new $4.9 million Integrated Media and Studio Arts Building on the college campus in Huntingdon, Pa. The construction is scheduled to start in mid-summer. “Adding an art building has been on the agenda for every master plan the college has produced for nearly a century, but it always would get bumped by something else of higher priority,” said John Dale, in a release. He is a retired telecommunications executive who has played a significant role in the growth of Juniata’s technology curriculum. The new building will be located on the site where the college’s Raffensberger Tennis Courts now stand. This summer, the tennis facilities will move to the Winton Hill Athletic Complex. The building, which will be named during the dedication ceremony planned for Fall 2017, is a two-story instruction space featuring studios for all types of artistic media, classrooms, and faculty offices.

-- Children and their parents are invited to the 14th Annual Open Door Recital at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 2, in the Elizabethtown (Pa.) College Zug Recital Hall. This year, the event features “a whole zoo of animals joining performers on the stage,” said Gene Ann Behrens, professor of music and director of music therapy, who organizes the recital each year. “A lion, an elephant, a zebra, a dolphin, a grasshopper, a lobster, a swan and a bird” will entertain children, acted out by music therapy students who perform the interactive program for children with and without special needs. A release noted that the recital, open to all families, is a unique concert in which the participation and expressions of joy by children is encouraged. A reception follows the concert so children can meet the performers. Reserve free tickets by calling 717-361-1991 or 717-361-1212.

-- NRCAT, or the National Religious Coalition Against Torture, is celebrating its 10th anniversary year. “In 2015, the deep and wide collaboration of NRCAT network faith leaders brought about great gains in our mission to end torture,” said a release. “Momentum from 2015 positions us well in 2016 for an even greater voice and impact in our work to end US-sponsored torture, eliminate solitary confinement, and address anti-Muslim bigotry. Read about the work of NRCAT, in which the Church of the Brethren has participated, in the organization’s 2015 Annual Report at www.nrcat.org/storage/documents/2015-annual-report.pdf .

-- “The $6.5 trillion in cuts over 10 years in the proposed 2017 budget by the House of Representatives will push millions more American working families and children into hunger and poverty,” says a release from Bread for the World. The spending cuts target programs that assist poor and working-class families, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) and Medicaid. “Budget cuts of this magnitude will have devastating consequences for working families and their children, potentially pushing millions further into hunger and poverty,” said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, in the release. “Right now, more than 48 million Americans struggle to put food on the table. If these spending cuts are put into place, this number will rise dramatically.” In addition to proposing deep cuts to SNAP and Medicaid, the House is considering limiting families’ eligibility for the child tax credit. The proposed budget would also repeal the Affordable Care Act, and cut Medicaid by more than $1 trillion over 10 years. Currently, one out of three people with chronic medical conditions must choose between treating these conditions or feeding themselves and their families. The spending cuts would also impact overseas poverty-focused development-assistance programs. “It has been a long time since our country has made ending hunger and poverty a national priority,” added Beckmann. “If we want this to happen, then we must vote people into office who will do something about it. We need to have members of Congress who will solve hunger and poverty, not worsen it for America's working families and children.”

-- The World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit has strongly condemned the terror attacks carried in Brussels as “wicked and indiscriminate,” and is calling for prayers for those affected. More than 30 people were killed and 170 more injured on March 22 when the Brussels Zaventem international airport and a city metro station near the European Union and the Ecumenical Centre in Brussels, were both bombed. “I grieve such a wicked and indiscriminate attack on ordinary human beings has taken place in Brussels, in a way that suggests a deliberate targeting of the heart of Europe,” said Tveit, in a WCC release. He noted, “Apart from the loss and suffering this act of violence has directly caused, it creates wider tensions which make it more difficult for Europe and Europeans to play the constructive role they need to in support of those who are seeking to escape the ongoing agony which is being experienced in several parts of the Middle East.”

-- Evelyn Dick and Janet Elliott have co-authored and published the book “Life on the Edge,” telling the story of the years that Evelyn and her late husband, Leroy, were missionaries in Haiti. Over the years, many congregations in the Church of the Brethren supported their work and sent teams to help build the church they started in Port-au-Prince. Evelyn (Burkholder) Dick grew up in Lancaster County, Pa., and in 1951 married Leroy Dick and nurtured a family of four children as a Church of the Brethren pastor’s wife. By the mid-1970s, the two felt God's call to Haiti, where they worked for more than 34 years. She now lives in Goshen, Ind., and continues to be active in the Vine Ministry that she and her husband planted in Port-au-Prince. “The two survived political unrest, emergency evacuations, theft, dungee fever, copper poisoning, along with other challenges,” said a description of the book. “They formed Vine Ministry which started a church and medical clinic. Over the years they conducted pastoral and literacy trainings along with student education sponsorships. They also provided training for rooftop gardening in order to help families become more self supporting. ‘Life on the Edge’ chronicles the blessings and challenges the Dicks experienced while living in Haiti.” The book is available through the Vine Ministry, Inc., P.O. Box 967, Goshen, IN 46526 or vineministry.org .
 

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Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jeff Boshart, Jenn Dorsch, Jan Fischer Bachman, Scott Duffey, Katie Furrow, Elizabeth Harvey, Mary K. Heatwole, Nancy Miner, Becky Ullom Naugle, Donna M. Rhodes, Merry Roy, John Wall, Roy Winter, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline is produced by the News Services of 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 April 8.

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