The Nigeria Crisis Response has purchased two new tractors to help Nigerian farmers grow more food, feed more people, and help their communities. “One tractor will help displaced families now living in the greater Abuja area,” reported Pam Reist, who with her husband, Dave Reist, currently is serving as a short-term volunteer in Nigeria. “The second tractor will be based in Kwarhi to support farmers returning home to rebuild their lives after being displaced for two years.” Shown here, Dave Reist tests out the tractor seat with Markus Gamache, staff liaison for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The Nigeria Crisis Response is a joint effort of EYN and the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries, working with a variety of Nigerian partner organizations. For more information go to www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis .
-- David Lawrenz has announced his plans to retire as executive administrator of Timbercrest Senior Living Community in North Manchester, Ind. In March, he and and Paul Schrock, board dhair, jointly announced to residents and staff that Lawrenz will retire in the near future. No date has been set. The Board of Directors has developed a Transition Team which will coordinate this leadership transition. Lawrenz has been at Timbercrest since 1974 and has served as executive administrator since 1979.
-- Tara Shepherd-Bowdel, regional advancement officer at Bethany Theological Seminary, is resigning her position as of May 8, 2017. Since March 2016 she has served the Seminary in the eastern United States by strengthening relationships with alumni/ae and friends and encouraging them to remain engaged with Bethany, by seeking financial support, and by representing the Seminary at events. She will be pursuing local ministry opportunities in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area. Shepherd-Bowdel earned an MDiv at Bethany in 2015.
-- Brethren Disaster Ministries has sent 20 volunteers from more than 10 districts to respond to flooding in Missouri. The volunteers had signed up to do rebuilding work following the 2015 flooding in the Eureka area, but “their plans changed since they arrived Sunday and they have spent the week filling and placing sand bags in downtown Eureka, helping to move furniture and appliances from homes ahead, handing clean-up buckets and helping local organizations with relief to the community,” reported Brethren Disaster Ministries director Jenn Dorsch. “The river crested at it’s highest on Wednesday but there has been more rain now that is continuing to fall towards the end of the week. Please pray for all those affected and for safe travels for our volunteers when the roads open and they leave this weekend.” Children’s Disaster Services also has a team of volunteer caregivers ready to aid families affected by the Missouri flooding when Multi Agency Resource Centers open up across the state next week. “We don’t know yet when and where,” reported CDS associate director Kathleen Fry-Miller. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the children and families affected by these severe storms and flooding.”
-- Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) hosted its annual Think Tank meeting at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., earlier this week. The Think Tank serves as an advisory group to BVS. Members are Bonnie Kline-Smeltzer, Jim Lehman, Marie Schuster, and Jim Stokes-Buckles. Others attending the meeting included Lizzy Diaz and Neil Richer, Mennonite Voluntary Service incoming and outgoing directors; and Wayne Meisel, executive director of the Center for Faith and Service. BVS staff will also were part of the meeting.
-- If April brings showers, then May brings...disaster relief auctions. Brethren Disaster Ministries sent an e-mail reminder to its supporters this week, saying, “We hope to see some of you at the auctions in May.” Mid-Atlantic District holds its 37th Annual Disaster Response Auction on Friday, May 6, at the Carroll County (Md.) Agricultural Center. For more information go to www.madcob.com/disaster-response-auction . Shenandoah District holds its 25th Disaster Ministries Auction on May 19-20 at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds in Virginia. Go to http://images.acswebnetworks.com/1/929/2017AuctionInsert.pdf .
-- The Shenandoah District Pastors for Peace hosted the 7th annual Living Peace Recognition Banquet on May 2 at Pleasant Valley Church of the Brethren in Weyers Cave, Va. Church of the Brethren members who have worked in jail and/or prison ministries were recognized. Harvey Yoder, a counselor, pastor, and social justice advocate, was the speaker on the topic, “Remember those in prison as though you were bound to them.”
-- At the November 2016 meeting of the Brethren College Presidents, it was decided to change the name of CoBCoA to Brethren Higher Education Association. “BHEA is a collaboration of Bridgewater College, Elizabethtown College, Juniata College, Manchester University, McPherson College, University of La Verne, BCA Study Abroad, and Bethany Theological Seminary,” said a brief release. “It is the body that continues the work of building relationships and recruitment of Church of the Brethren students toward the goal of educating future leaders for the church and our world.”
-- The annual Spring Festival at Brethren Woods was held Saturday, April 29, at the camp and retreat center near Keezletown, Va. “It’s not just our biggest fundraiser of the year, it is by far our biggest fun-raiser!” said an announcement. Activities included door prizes, hay wagon rides, children’s games, zip line rides, climbing tower and challenge course, paddle boat rides, mini-golf, Dunk the Dunkard, a fishing contest, a plant and flower sale, a hike-a-thon, live music, kiss the cow, an auction, and food.
-- Bread for the World today urged the Senate to reject the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday, May 4. “The AHCA will take away health insurance from millions of Americans, including 14 million on Medicaid,” the Bread release said. “At least 24 million people would lose their health care coverage under the AHCA. The AHCA would cap state Medicaid funding and eliminate the Medicaid expansion. States would receive less money to cover children, the poor, the elderly, and the disabled, resulting in the rationing of health care. Approximately 68 million Americans receive health insurance through the Medicaid program.” The release also noted that the bill would cut subsidies that have made it possible for millions of families to buy health insurance, and would allow insurers to charge higher rates for those with pre-existing conditions, returning many people to the situation prior to the Affordable Care Act, when “1 in 3 people with chronic medical conditions had to choose between paying for medical treatment and purchasing food for their family,” the release said. “Protecting Medicaid is a priority for the faith community,” said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, in the release. “Medical bills often drive families, especially those who struggle to make ends meet, into hunger and poverty. We strongly urge the Senate to reject this bill.” Bread for the World (www.bread.org) is a collective Christian voice urging the nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad.
-- The United Nations says boys and girls in northeast Nigeria “continue to be brutalized as a result of Boko Haram's insurgency in the region and the ensuing conflict,” according to a news article on AllAfrica.com . “In the first report by the UN office of the special representative for children and armed conflict on violations suffered by children, the UN documented horrendous abuse of children between January 2013 and December 2016.” The article reported a number of statistics released by the UN: Book Haram attacks and confrontations with the military left some 3,900 children dead and 7,300 maimed; at least 1,000 of the children were killed and 2,100 injuries resulted from suicide attacks; up to 1,650 children were recruited and used by Boko Haram, and the insurgent group recruited and used thousands more since 2009, some as young as age 4; the children were used in direct hostilities, to plant improvised explosive devices, to burn schools or houses, and children, especially girls, have been used in suicide attacks since 2014 with at least 90 used in suicide bombings in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger; more than 1,500 schools have been destroyed since 2014, with at least 1,280 casualties among teachers and students; up to 4,000 boys and girls have been taken in mass abductions from schools, including the 276 Chibok girls kidnapped in 2014. On the Nigerian government’s side of the conflict, the UN also reprimanded the country for the 228 children, some as young as nine, who were recruited into the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), created in Borno State to assist the Nigerian Security Forces. Find the news article at http://allafrica.com/stories/201705050767.html .
-- Dennis and Ann Saylor, members of West Green Tree Church of the Brethren near Elizabethtown, Pa., were recognized for their 30 years of service as COBYS foster parents at the organization’s annual Resource Parent Appreciation Banquet on May 1. The event is held in conjunction with National Foster Care Month. The Saylors are COBYS’ longest serving foster/adoptive resource parents, and are unique in that they have focused on foster care. “Many COBYS resource parents provide foster care for a time, adopt a child or children, and then conclude their service with COBYS,” said a release. “After adopting their daughter in 1988, the Saylors made a conscious decision to make foster care their ministry. As a result they have had a positive impact on six dozen children over three decades.” For more information about the ministry go to www.cobys.org .
-- Leon and Carol Miller of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., are among four nominees for the 2017 D. Ray Wilson Service Award in recognition of their years of working with Elgin’s Soup Kettle, a program that offers daily hot meals to the city’s homeless and others in need. The award presentation will part of Judson University’s Community Prayer Breakfast on May 10.
-- Church of the Brethren member and community gardening enthusiast Penny Gay, of Pleasantdale Church of the Brethren in Decatur, Ind., has had an article published in the Journal Gazette. “After spending time in Alaska and witnessing the dependence of our native Gwich'in friends on the land and animals, Bill and I fully support protection of the coastal plain as wilderness to preserve their culture and livelihood. These are public lands, belonging to all of us. We feel that all Americans can and should help in the conservation and protection of this diverse and unspoiled land.” Find her opinion piece at www.journalgazette.net/opinion/columns/20170419/hallowed-ground .