“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it” (Song of Solomon 8:7a).
1) Children’s Disaster Services deploys teams to three cities in Texas
2) Moderator invites denomination to online ‘townhall meetings’
3) Program and Arrangements Committee announces preachers for Annual Conference 2018
4) Michigan District approves motion from churches wanting to form new district
5) ‘Living Parables’: About the Annual Conference theme
6) Rebecca Dali: My faith in God motivates me every second
7) Brethren bits: Personnel, job openings, Chibok girls baptized, stories requested for ‘Inglenook Desserts,’ ‘Justice Like Water–Examining Racism,’ Peace Day 2017, and much more
Quotes of the week:
“This will be the largest CDS response in more than a decade.”
-- Brethren Disaster Ministries reporting on the work of Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) responding to Hurricane Harvey and flooding caused by the storm. See the story below. For continuing updates and ways to contribute financially to the Church of the Brethren’s disaster relief effort, go to www.brethren.org/bdm/hurricane-harvey.html .
“Be thinking of us as we begin our 14th conference on Monday.”
-- Debbie Eisenbise, staff coordinator for Inspiration 2017: National Older Adult Conference (NOAC), and director of Intergenerational Ministries. NOAC will bring together more than 800 people in Lake Junaluska, N.C., from Sept., 4-8, for a week of worship, Bible studies, keynote presentations, hymn sings, workshops, fellowship, recreation, and relaxation. This Sunday, churches are invited to commission NOAC participants, and Eisenbise also suggests that congregations make time for NOACers to report back after the conference. The Brethren Press bulletin cover for this Sunday features a photo from the 2015 NOAC and a reflection by one of the planning committee.
Starting Monday, onsite coverage of NOAC may be found at www.brethren.org/inspiration2017 . There will be links to photo albums, news stories, webcasts, videos, “NOAC Notes,” and more.
1) Children’s Disaster Services deploys teams to three cities in Texas
Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) is now deploying teams of volunteers to aid children and families in shelters in three Texas cities: San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas. “We have 24 people as of today and another 30 will be arriving over the next week to replace those teams,” reported CDS staff.
Brethren Disaster Ministries has a new webpage providing up-to-date information on the Harvey response, and a link to support the response with financial gifts, at www.brethren.org/bdm/hurricane-harvey.html .
This will be the largest CDS response in more than a decade, said Brethren Disaster Ministries. CDS volunteers are staffing childcare centers in shelters housing people who have been evacuated or have fled homes flooded in Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath.
At the same time CDS has had volunteers caring for children in Kansas City this week, at a Multi Agency Resource Center set up in response to devastating flash floods earlier this month. “CDS volunteers provided meaningful play activities, and calm, nurturing care for these children,” staff reported, “letting families know their hardships were not forgotten.”
“The San Antonio team has had 50 children in the smaller shelter the past day and a half. The CDS team moved to a mega shelter set up for 2,300 people today. The other two teams will set up in larger shelters tomorrow in Austin and Dallas,” said staff, via a Facebook post. “We are keeping the people of Texas in our thoughts and prayers!
Because of the extreme need for CDS volunteers and their services, Brethren Disaster Ministries is reporting that it is possible that “Just In Time” trainings for additional volunteers may be held on-site in Texas, with immediate background checks. This may be done to temporarily certify local volunteers to help expand the response. “If you are currently in Texas and interested in signing up for this training, contact CDS at email@example.com or 410-635-8735,” said an announcement.
Kits and clean-up buckets
Brethren Disaster Ministries staff are coordinating response efforts and planning with Church World Service and other partners. At this time, the urgent need is for Gift of the Heart Clean-up Buckets and Hygiene Kits. These kits are warehoused and shipped by the Materials Resources program at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.
For more about the kits go to www.cwskits.org . Deliver completed kits to the Brethren Service Center, 601 Main Street, New Windsor, MD 21776-0188. Contact 410-635-8797 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Find more Harvey response information at www.brethren.org/bdm/hurricane-harvey.html along with a link to support the response with financial gifts.
In other disaster relief news
An ongoing rebuilding project site of Brethren Disaster Ministries in South Carolina has been moved from Columbia--where Brethren Disaster Ministries work has finished up--to Marion County. Volunteers will help with recovery from Hurricane Matthew, which hit South Carolina in October 2016. Marion County was one of the hardest-hit areas. Brethren Disaster Ministries will be partnering with Palmetto Disaster Recovery and other local organizations.
An Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) grant of $22,000 was given to close out the Columbia rebuilding project site, and a grant of $45,000 has been given to start up the rebuilding project site in Marion County.
An EDF grant of $45,000 is funding a Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding project in Eureka, Mo., where in December 2015, Winter Storm Goliath brought severe weather and set historic water level records across the state. This spring brought at least 10 inches of rain in 10 days, causing more damage and destruction. Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers began serving the week of July 8, so far doing construction work needed on vacant mobile homes in disrepair in a neighborhood that was not flooded. “Once these homes are safe, sanitary, and secure,” said a report from Brethren Disaster Ministries, “they will go to flood affected families so they can relocate to homes on higher ground than their previous residence.” The site is projected to be active at least through the end of 2017 and perhaps longer than that.
For more about Brethren Disaster Ministries go to www.brethren.org/bdm . For more about Children’s Disaster Services go to www.brethren.org/cds . For more about the Harvey response and how to support it go to www.brethren.org/bdm/hurricane-harvey.html .
2) Moderator invites denomination to online ‘townhall meetings’
Annual Conference moderator Samuel K. Sarpiya is issuing an invitation to Brethren across the denomination to join in online “townhall meetings” that he plans to hold once a month beginning Sept. 28. The online “townhalls” will explore the theme for the 2018 Annual Conference, “Living Parables.”
Participants will take part in discussions about how the theme comes alive in congregations and communities, and will hear stories of how different churches are living out the theme. “I’m hoping for every church to look at their faith as a living parable,” Sarpiya said.
He hopes to “interact across the denomination as the different churches share what it means to be a living parable in their own communities. Sometimes, in our quietness and humility, we don’t share what we are doing with others, and there is a reinventing of the wheel.” He hopes the “townhalls” will spark ideas, inventiveness, sharing, and mutual understanding. “Everyone is invited to sign in,” he said.
The moderator is inviting congregations to send him their stories about being a “Living Parable” in local communities, so that he can choose significant stories to share during the “townhalls.” He would like to receive some stories from congregations as video messages, with no video clip longer than 5 minutes maximum. Congregations also are invited to send stories written in e-mail messages to email@example.com .
Stories from congregations should answer the following questions: How does a living parable look for you in your community? And how are you living that out?
The online events will be held live using Zoom technology, sponsored by the Annual Conference office. Up to 200 people may connect to each “townhall.” Participants will need a Zoom meeting i.d. number or teleconferencing number to join in. These numbers will be shared in advance of each monthly event.
Here is the information needed to participate in the first “townhall”:
Moderator Town Hall: Living Parables
Sept. 28, 7 p.m. (Central time) / 8 p.m. (Eastern)
Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://zoom.us/j/775595309
Or iPhone one-tap: US: +14157629988,,775595309# or +16465687788,,775595309#
Or telephone: dial 415-762-9988 or 646-568-7788
Meeting ID: 775 595 309
International numbers available: https://zoom.us/zoomconference?m=nZNQGnSN886uEin7QjgIpUI3ESy_-jrv
3) Program and Arrangements Committee announces preachers for Annual Conference 2018
The Program and Arrangements Committee for the 2018 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren has announced preachers for the denomination’s next annual meeting. The Conference takes place in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the Duke Energy Convention Center, on July 4-8. The Sunday morning sermon will be brought by Leonard Sweet, a popular preacher and Christian author who is the E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Drew University.
Here is the full preaching line-up:
The opening sermon on Wednesday evening, July 4, will be given by Annual Conference moderator Samuel Sarpiya. He is an ordained minister and pastor in Rockford, Ill. He will speak on the Conference theme, “Living Parables.”
On Thursday evening, the worship service will feature preacher Brian Messler, an ordained minister who is serving as pastor of Ephrata (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. He is a former member of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board.
Friday evening’s sermon will be brought by Rosanna Eller McFadden, an ordained minister who pastors Creekside Church of the Brethren in Elkhart, Ind. She has been active in the arts, and has formerly served on the Program and Arrangements Committee of Annual Conference.
On Saturday evening, the Conference will receive a message from Angela Finet. She is an ordained minister and a recent graduate of Bethany Theological Seminary. She is serving as pastor of Nokesville (Va.) Church of the Brethren.
The closing service on Sunday morning will feature Leonard Sweet, E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Drew University, Madison, N.J., and a Visiting Distinguished Professor at George Fox University, Portland, Ore. Also a best-selling author and popular preacher, he is known for bridging the worlds of faith, academia, and popular culture. He produces a podcast called “Napkin Scribbles,” has written for sermons.com for many years, and hosts his own preaching website called PreachTheStory.com . His books, among others, include “Soul Tsunami,” “Aqua Church,” “Jesus Manifesto” and “Jesus: A Theography” co-written with Frank Viola.
For more about Annual Conference go to www.brethren.org/ac .
4) Michigan District approves motion from churches wanting to form new district
By Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Michigan District Conference has approved a motion from seven congregations seeking to leave the district and form a new district of the Church of the Brethren in the state. The 50 delegates voted 37 to 10 in favor of the motion after many hours of discussion over two days. The separating group must now be in conversation with the Annual Conference officers in order for the proposal to move forward.
The request for a new district is based on theological differences within Michigan District. It would represent a sharp break from the denomination’s practice of using geographic boundaries to delineate districts, if it gains approval from the officers or Standing Committee of Annual Conference.
The district conference approved the motion despite many statements of shock and grief from representatives of remaining congregations, and a statement of concern that the action may set a precedent for the whole denomination.
“If we let you go,” said one delegate from a remaining congregation, addressing the separating group, “what does this mean for our denomination? Is this the beginning of something bigger?”
The district conference on Aug. 18-19 was hosted at one of the separating churches--New Haven Church of the Brethren near Middleton. The other six are Beaverton Church of the Brethren, Church in Drive in Saginaw, Drayton Plains Church of the Brethren in Waterford, Sugar Ridge Church of the Brethren in Custer, Woodgrove Brethren Christian Parish in Hastings, and Zion Church of the Brethren in Prescott. The seven churches represent about a third of the congregations in Michigan District.
Business sessions were led by district moderator Dan McRoberts, interspersed with worship led by former Annual Conference moderator Tim Harvey, who traveled from Virginia in order to preach for the conference. Harvey also served as parliamentarian.
Michigan District is without an executive after former district executive Nathan Polzin resigned earlier this summer. It was mentioned during the conference that Polzin, who is currently on sabbatical, will be pastoring two congregations on his return--one of which is in the separating group. Polzin has ministered at Church in Drive for many years. This fall he also begins as pastor at Midland Church of the Brethren.
Music and personal sharing, meals prepared by the host congregation, and the presence of young children and youth--who raised money for National Youth Conference during the weekend--gave the event the feel of an extended family reunion. It was clear that personal relationships have been an important element in the district, which made for a very emotional discussion about dividing into two districts.
Sadness and shock
The motion from the separating churches was met with expressions of shock. Some delegates went to the microphone to say they had not known it was coming. “I am absolutely dumbfounded,” said one. “I can hardly believe what I have heard.”
Although the motion was posted online in advance of the conference, it was part of a large business packet and may have been difficult to find on the last page of a 60-plus page document.
The separating group had held organizing meetings for several months, but some delegates from other churches said they had not been aware of those meetings, and complained about the group’s secretiveness. A couple of delegates asked how the group decided which congregations to invite to join them, and why their own congregations were not invited. It seemed that no direct communications about the meetings had been shared with all of the churches in the district.
As business sessions progressed, and representatives of separating churches were asked to share their reasons for the motion, shock eased into a mood of sadness. Several people were visibly distraught. One woman appealed to be allowed to speak as a nondelegate, saying she hadn’t planned to come to the conference but changed her mind after hearing what was happening. “I am heartbroken at this,” she said, in tears. “I have friends all over the district.”
Another woman who has volunteered at the district camp for many years, alongside friends from the separating churches, expressed disbelief. She pleaded with the separating group to continue to participate in the camp’s ministry, saying it serves as a neutral place for all the Brethren in Michigan.
The grief expressed by representatives of remaining congregations included a feeling of hurt at being excluded by the separating churches’ statement of faith, which, as one person put it, identified them as “unacceptable.”
Theological differences, concern about ‘dysfunction’
Representatives of the seven churches explained that their primary reason to form a new district was theological. “Inerrancy of scripture is the core issue,” said one.
Several times during the conference, people spoke of Michigan District as one of the most theologically diverse in the denomination, with very conservative and very progressive churches. A sticking point for some of those in the separating group has been the naming of pastoral leadership by open and affirming churches.
The recent loss of a long-established congregation--New Life Christian Fellowship--was a key event initiating the separating group. One representative of the group told the conference that creating a new district was “an attempt to keep us from losing other churches like we lost New Life,” and represented a “last resort.” If the district conference did not give permission to form a new district, she said some of the churches were prepared to leave the Church of the Brethren.
People speaking for the separating churches also cited “dysfunction” that prevents the district from being effective. The separating group cited an inability to make decisions as a district as one example of dysfunction.
As other items of business came up--such as staffing, budget, and nominations for elected positions--it was acknowledged that Michigan District has been struggling financially and in other ways in recent years. A report from Camp Brethren Heights mentioned the problem of falling attendance and sagging numbers at district events--some of which was attributed to the theological divisions.
While discussing budget and staffing options, the district leadership team reported preliminary conversation with adjoining districts about the possibility of merger. Other ideas for staffing included hiring executive staff on a very part-time basis, contracting with a consultant, or sharing a district executive with a neighboring district.
Statement of faith
Sharp questions were posed about the statement of faith the separating churches had created. Delegates from other churches accused them of preparing the document in secret.
At first, a representative of the separating group declined to share the statement of faith, claiming it was not relevant to the motion. Audible gasps greeted his comment, and an angry outburst came from a delegate who demanded that the statement be shown to the conference before any vote was taken. The statement was described to the conference during the first business session as a five-page document. The next day, a two-page statement of faith was distributed as a printed handout.
Eventually, representatives of the separating group made an apology about the apparent secretiveness of their process, saying it had not been intentional.
The separating group reported two criteria to be met in order for a church to join their motion to seek a new district: a 90 percent vote for the statement of faith, and a two-thirds vote to join the separating group, taken at congregational business meetings announced in advance.
The two-page statement of faith included several points and scripture references listed under each of three headings: “Essential beliefs of Christianity,” “Church of the Brethren beliefs and practices,” and “Position statements.”
The section on Brethren beliefs and practices reaffirmed the peace witness, anointing, and Love Feast, among others.
Under the heading “Position statements,” four statements appeared. The first reaffirmed the Brethren tradition of the priesthood of all believers. The second was a statement about marriage being ordained by God to be between “a biological man and a biological woman.” The third was a statement about human life beginning at conception. The fourth was a statement about how “Christians are commanded by Scripture to hold one another accountable,” citing Matthew 18.
The statement of faith interpreted Matthew 18 as a three-part process to follow “if a Christian will not repent from a sinful attitude or activity” including a third and final step of “firmer rebuke by the church if necessary, other believers are to dismiss that person from fellowship.” The statement concluded, “That is the most loving action to take when a Christian is living in sin.”
Creating a district based on theological differences would represent a break from the Church of the Brethren practice of using geographic boundaries to delineate districts, if the proposal gains approval from the officers or Standing Committee of Annual Conference.
In the absence of a district executive, district leaders have been consulting with denominational staff including Joe Detrick, interim director of the Office of Ministry. Detrick was at the conference to present information about denominational polity, and during breaks between business sessions he took part in several meetings with the district leadership team and representatives of the separating churches. Torin Eikler, district executive of the adjacent Northern Indiana District, also was present to help provide counsel.
Detrick repeatedly urged the delegates to “make good, thoughtful decisions on the life of the Michigan District.” He told the conference that according to denominational polity, any new district must have approval from the district(s) from whose territory it is formed. To be approved by the Church of the Brethren it must gain recognition from the Standing Committee of Annual Conference. He also cited polity stating that if a district wishes to relinquish or remove territory it should consult with the Annual Conference officers.
Steps the separating group will have to carry out, in order to request recognition of a new district, include creating bylaws and a plan of organization, electing officers, creating a budget, and more. Representatives of the group verbally agreed to carry out such steps, and affirmed that they understand denominational ethics rules prohibit them from proselytizing other congregations and other individuals from Michigan District.
After the vote on the motion, Eikler and others noted that the existing district also will undergo changes as a result. “Everything is going to have to be restructured and changed,” he said.
“We will not just have one new district in Michigan, we will have two new districts,” said one delegate from the remaining churches. “Both districts will be called to creativity, to think anew about how we might organize, how we might staff and use resources.”
As moderator, McRoberts gave a gracious blessing to the separating churches. “You go with the blessing of this district conference,” he said. “You go on God’s path. You go to a new territory. May you be blessed. May you find new ways to serve God.”
To the remaining congregations, McRoberts said, “We have sent these people by the vote of this district conference. We need to continue to pray for this situation and these people.... We need to remember that everyone in this room is a child of God, is blessed by God, is loved by God.”
-- Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford is director News Services for the Church of the Brethren, and associate editor of “Messenger” magazine.
5) ‘Living Parables’: About the Annual Conference theme
by Samuel K. Sarpiya, Annual Conference moderator
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’” (Matthew 9:35-38).
A parable is...
The simple understanding of a parable is literally from Jesus’ parables, which were stories that were cast alongside a truth in order to illustrate that truth, or the telling of a familiar story to illustrate big truths. Jesus’ parables were teaching aids and can be thought of as extended analogies or inspired comparisons. A common description of a parable is that it is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.
Jesus’ use of parables
Part of Jesus’ genius lay in the way he took things that already existed and used them in a fresh and new ways. For example, although parables had been used in the area for thousands of years before Jesus started telling them, by Jesus retelling them they had fresh and new meaning. Sometimes these parable and stories might seem familiar, the listeners might think they already know them. But reading and reflecting on the parables again brings to light some new ways of understanding and new applications.
For a time in his ministry, Jesus relied heavily on parables. He told many of them. In fact, according to Mark 4:34, “He did not say anything to them without using a parable.” The synoptic gospels points to about 35 parables told by Jesus. Parables were not his only way of communicating, but Jesus’ use of parables seemed to be sudden. Suddenly, he began telling parables exclusively, much to the surprise of his disciples who asked him, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” (Matthew 13:10). Jesus explained that his use of parables had a two-fold purpose: to reveal the truth to those who wanted to know it, and to conceal the truth from those who were uninterested.
Jesus’ life as a parable
Jesus’ life and actions provide the template for Brethren today, for Jesus did not just study his context, he became a part of it. We are a “Living Parable.” Our lives can be a natural response to God’s love and grace in our world, and that should inspire us to be living parables.
We cannot turn to Jesus if that would mean repeating some stagnant sets of beliefs. Instead, we should keep going forward in a way that somehow corresponds with our time, and the meaning of his life, and the message for our age.
Our lives as living parables
“Living Parables” is a foundational call to be involved with the ministries of Jesus. It calls us to work for peace, reconciliation, and transformation of all things, visible and invisible. As living parables, Christ calls us to learn how to share our lives in grace with others--and our sharing should be a source of grace for others. This kind of sharing is not about telling information, but being present in a world that so desperately needs to see Christ in action.
We Brethren, at our best, have been able to be present when disaster strikes. “Living Parables” takes us beyond providing material resources, to share our personal story of God at work in our lives--individually, through the church community of believers, and in the world. As seen through Jesus’ actions in Matthew 9:35: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.”
-- Samuel Kefas Sarpiya is serving as moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. He is hosting online “townhall meetings” once a month until the 2018 Annual Conference next summer, in order to facilitate conversation and share stories about people and congregations who are becoming living parables in their own communities (www.brethren.org/news/2017/moderator-invites-brethren-to-online-townhalls.html ).
6) Rebecca Dali: My faith in God motivates me every second
The following release from the World Council of Churches (WCC) notes an unprecedented honor for a member of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Rebecca Dali, founder of the Center for Compassion, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives (CCEPI), has received the 2017 Humanitarian Award from the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation at a ceremony at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
Kristin Flory, Brethren Service staff working in Geneva, accompanied her at the ceremony on behalf of the Church of the Brethren, and took these photographs. Stan Noffsinger, former general secretary of the Church of the Brethren and now a staff person at the WCC, also was present at the event.
CCEPI’s work to aid widows, orphans, and others affected by the violence of the Boko Haram insurgency has received financial and other support through the Nigeria Crisis Response of EYN and the Church of the Brethren.
Additional work Dali and CCEPI have done to document the personal stories of those killed by the insurgents has been aided by a partnership of the Church of the Brethren with faculty and students at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. Brethren who attended Annual Conference and National Older Adult Conference in 2015 will remember seeing outcomes of this work in the “Walls of Healing” that featured the names of thousands of Nigerian Brethren victims.
In addition, the denomination’s Global Mission and Service office has been supportive of Dali’s higher education as well. Dali holds a master’s degree and a doctorate. These high-level degrees have given her work with CCEPI increased stature with international partners.
“She is tenacious, just tenacious in a deep way,” said Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service. He expressed admiration for Dali’s persistence on behalf of the most vulnerable Nigerians, Christian and Muslim, in an area that for many years was in danger of being ignored by the rest of the world. CCEPI and its accompaniment, he said, has made all the difference for many surviving victims of Boko Haram.
Rebecca Dali: My faith in God motivates me every second
A World Council of Churches release
During World Humanitarian Day on Aug. 21, Dr Rebecca Samuel Dali received the 2017 Humanitarian Award from the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation at the United Nations office in Geneva in recognition of her courageous efforts in reintegration of women abducted by the Boko Haram into their local communities in northern Nigeria. In her visit to the Ecumenical Centre, Dali shares the source of her courage and commitment to help the most vulnerable.
“At first I was helping vulnerable children, but when the crisis of violence came to Jos, I started helping widows and orphans,” recalls Dali, who founded and runs the Center for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives (CCEPI) in northeast Nigeria. “Later, when Boko Haram came, we started working with the whole range of displaced people. We have registered 380,000 households whom we have helped with something,” says Dali, who herself was forced to flee with her family when Boko Haram militants took over the town of Michika, Adamawa State, in 2014.
As the situation in the northern states of Nigeria only worsened, the CCEPI relief work grew gradually, resulting in helping 1 million individuals since 2008. “In that big, huge congregation, there were widows and orphans again, and I started to focus on the most vulnerable,” says Dali. A lot of people coming from Boko Haram insurgencies were neglected, “the government did not care, the community rejected them”--often including even their own families. “When I started opening my arms to them, they started coming to me: some were sick, some were hungry, most of them had experienced trauma, violence, abuse.”
Dali, with her colleagues at CCEPI, started to take a more detailed look in their cases, offering specific help. “Often help used to be just a handout, small and insufficient--but as I looked at the people and their stories more closely, I was able to offer the help they needed.” Starting with trauma healing and providing a shelter, continuing with support in pregnancy and giving birth, support with clothing, food, and housing, and moving on with training and empowering them, enrolling people into the livelihood centers--the CCEPI was and still is there to help.
“Sometimes when I am really exhausted, the thoughts of stopping this work come to my mind. But then I remember that God did not reject me, and He is not very tired of me--so how can I be tired of people? I believe that God is God of love, and He has said that we should love other people as ourselves. He came to reconcile the world,” says Dali, adding that we should act as ones who help others to reconcile too.
Taking a risk for justice
Dali’s CCEPI is recognized by UNHCR as the first humanitarian actor to set up a livelihood program for internally displaced persons and returnees in the Madagali and Michika areas of Adamawa region in Nigeria. The center took the risk of reaching areas considered inaccessible and dangerous at the peak of Boko Haram’s insurgency, at a time when other non-governmental organizations could not.
“Even if you are persecuted--you should not be demoralised because of the persecution, but continue to help others,” says Dali. “Immediately as we were chased away by Boko Haram, on the first day I slept, but on the second day I was among the other displaced people--registering them, gathering their stories, listening to their needs, and later starting applying to donor agencies to help them.”
Dali was also amongst the first to visit the parents of the 276 Chibok girls after the mass kidnaping by Boko Haram in April 2014. Dali’s husband, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Dante Dali, at that time was the president of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN, Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria), to which most of the kidnapped Chibok girls belonged. Located in the northern districts of the country, congregations of the EYN suffered severe attacks by Boko Haram militants, forcing up to 70 percent of the church members to flee and become internally displaced persons.
Courageous efforts of Rebecca Dali and the CCEPI in the reintegration of women abducted by the Boko Haram were recognized by the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation, which granted Dali its biennially conferred Humanitarian Award. “As the local communities resisted their reintegration, your negotiation skills and reconciliation efforts played an important role in their successful reintegration,” states chairman of the foundation and UNHCR’s director of External Relations Anne Willem Bijleveld.
“We provided medical services and trauma healing for women returning from Boko Haram,” says Rebecca Dali. If the women where pregnant, CCEPI supported them and waited until they give birth; took them to the hospital and purchased everything needed for the baby. “It is very sad, but after they gave birth, some used to say, this child is from Boko Haram,” recalls Dali. Many believed those are children of “bad blood” and that’s why they had a high risk of being killed or just left neglected. “We had to be there to encourage the mothers to take care of the babies, as it was not the fault of these children--they all are wonderfully created in the image of God,” says Dali.
Such encouragement usually worked very well, but the real challenge was families of these women and their husbands, who in many cases refused to accept their women returning from Boko Haram captivity. “So we had to do lobbying, going to these families and talking with them, making a lot of phone calls and arranging the meetings, involving local community leaders as well,” says Dali. There were cases when it did not work, and there was a need to build houses for these women in other communities who did not know their background. In some such cases reconnection with families happened gradually, after the trauma had gone from both sides.
Dali received the award on Aug. 21 at the United Nations in Geneva, during the annual World Humanitarian Day event aimed to raise awareness of aid work, commemorate workers who have died while in the field, and mark the day in 2003 when 22 people were killed in a bomb attack on UN offices in Iraq, including the head of mission Sergio Vierra de Mello.
Thanking supporters, thanking God
In her moving speech at the award ceremony in the fully packed Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Hall, Dali said: “I give thanks to my God who gave me courage and opportunity to serve his children--my neighbors.”
Reflecting on the current recognition, Dali says she sees the award as a key to further success of CCEPI. “There are people who already have approached me with invitations to speak, partnership and donation offers for building of trauma healing clinic and a school. I finished my speech and in less than 20 minutes I met a lot of people who wanted to help. Without the award I would not be known to them--so I thank God for this opportunity!”
Dali acknowledges that support from donor agencies--Church of the Brethren USA, Christian Aid Ministries, International Rescue Committee, UNHCR--has been important motivation for her work. “You have the funding and resources to help, and you see a lot of needs and suffering of people around you--I can’t just say I’m tired, it motivates me to keep on doing.”
But above everything else Dali highlights the love of God and the good of her neighbor as the main drivers of her commitment: “Each minute and each second I find motivation in knowing that God is near me and protecting me. Because of Him I am doing this work.”
From someone who meets the harshest violence face to face on a daily basis, these are not just words.
-- This WCC release is available online at www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/rebecca-dali-my-faith-in-god-motivates-me-every-second .
7) Brethren bits
“Praise God for the recent baptism of 36 ‘Chibok girls,’ young women who were abducted from their school in Chibok in 2014,” said this week’s Global Mission and Service prayer update. “These young women have been released from Boko Haram captivity in the past year and join 10 other Chibok abductees who have been baptized by Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).” EYN pastor Paul Abraham Chandumi conducted the service in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, where the baptisms were held at the center where the young women are still under Nigerian government security. Two of the young women’s children also were dedicated during the service.
-- Sarah Thompson is completing her tenure as executive director of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), as of October. “As Sarah’s time of service comes to a close, the Steering Committee, program director Milena Rincon, and members of CPT would like to take the opportunity to thank her for her hard work, leadership, and commitment to the organization, and the holy work of peacemaking,” said an announcement shared by Nathan Hosler of the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness. “Sarah’s term has been marked by vision, intelligence, and relentless energy. Her dedication to the well-being of CPT is matched only by her desire to further its reach in building partnerships to transform violence and oppression. During these years Sarah has taken CPT to new places and started new conversations while tending well to the history and relationships that formed the organization. That is not an easy task, but she performed it with wisdom and grace.” Thompson began as executive director of CPT in January 2014, after serving on CPT’s Steering Committee 2010-12 and working for a year as CPT’s outreach coordinator.
-- Patty Sturrock is completing her work as kitchen manager at Brethren Woods, a camp and outdoor ministry center in Shenandoah District. She will finish out her term of service this fall. “We will be sad to see her go, but so appreciate her service to Christ and the church. Thank you, Patty!” said an announcement from the district. Brethren Woods is seeking a kitchen manager for the camp. A complete job description is available on request. Contact the camp office at 540-269-2741 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
-- Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) seeks an accountant/bookkeeper for a full-time, exempt position based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The primary function is to manage all aspects of day-to-day bookkeeping and accounting processes. Duties include managing all aspects of daily bookkeeping and accounting processes for A/P, A/R, payroll, journal entries, and bank reconciliations in accordance to GAAP. The ideal candidate will have an undergraduate degree in accounting and a strong working knowledge of fund accounting. Experience with Microsoft Great Plains is preferred. This position requires a person who is very detail oriented, with the ability to prioritize workloads; proficiency with computer systems and applications; and exceptional organizational and telephone skills. Impeccable follow-up abilities are a must. BBT is seeking candidates with strong verbal and written communications skills, proficiency in Excel, and a demonstrated track record of providing superior customer service and a willingness and ability to expand knowledge and effectiveness through classes and workshops. Current and active membership in the Church of the Brethren is preferred; current and active membership in a faith community is required. Salary and benefits are competitive with Church Benefits Association agencies of comparable size and scope of services. A full benefits package is included. Send a letter of interest, résumé, three professional references, and salary-range expectation to Donna March at 1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120, or email@example.com . For more information about Brethren Benefit Trust, visit www.cobbt.org .
-- Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is seeking to fill the position of interim administrative director. The position is anticipated to be for one year, with hours and wages to be negotiated. Responsibilities include to strategize, coordinate, and aid communication within the organization, working alongside the Program Director to help CPT better align with the mission of the organization to confront areas of lethal conflict and undoing oppressions; to help CPT assess the administrative components of its work and how it connects to the organization as a whole with regard to projects and Steering Committee including: structure, roles, decision making flow, constituency relations; bring skilled understanding of organizational structures and models, and how to make organizational change. The interim nature of the role will allow for greater freedom to provide constructive criticism of areas that are weak in relation to fulfilling mission, vision, and values of partnership which are not in line with stated CPT values of partnership. Their main purpose is to help the organization change into the new model and prepare for working with a new administrative director. Duties also include participating in the onboarding process of the Development Coordinator and the newly hired Communication Coordinator, including developing internal communication processes and practices, and engaging with the Program Director to consider areas where projects and the Administration Team can more efficiently and effectively work together; among others. Qualifications include experience in working with Christian, ecumenical, and interfaith organizations; experience in director level and interim leadership; ideally 10 years of leadership experience; graduate studies in relevant field to organizational management or CPT’s work. Apply by submitting a resume, cover letter, and brief description of approach to interim and transitional processes to firstname.lastname@example.org . Review of candidates will begin immediately.
-- One of the features of “The New Inglenook Cookbook” that meant so much was the stories and essays on aspects of cooking that connected our past with the present. Brethren Press wants to do something similar with “Inglenook Desserts,” the next cookbook in the series. Brethren Press invites submissions of stories about favorite desserts or traditions that your family has, or tips that you’ve learned over the years. Here are some questions to guide the submissions: What was your favorite dessert growing up? What is your favorite one now? What is the quintessential Brethren dessert, in your opinion? Tell us about a special dessert used for a holiday celebration or birthday. Describe memories about making desserts (picking blackberries on the farm, watching your mother make that famous lattice-top pie, sharing cookies at a church bazaar). Share tips or shortcuts you’ve learned over the years. How do you ensure your pie crust won’t shrink around the edge? Which varieties of apples make the best pie? Share a funny story that’s happened to you making or eating a dessert. Submit stories, memories, and tips by Oct. 4 at www.brethren.org/inglenookmemory . Some of these will be published in “Inglenook Desserts.”
-- The International Day of Prayer for Peace is coming up on Sept. 21, and On Earth Peace has named Virginia Rendler as its Peace Day Organizer for 2017. The theme for this year’s On Earth Peace campaign is “Praying Together,” with the scripture theme from Psalms 37:37 (NLT), “A wonderful future awaits those who seek peace.” “On September 21, we invite you to reach out and connect with someone, and pray for peace and justice with them,” said an announcement from Rendler. To stay connected with other individuals, congregations, districts, and community groups observing Peace Day, On Earth Peace has created a Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/OEP.PeaceDay . Participants are encouraged to post information about their events or stories to the Facebook group, and photos are welcomed. Contact Rendler with any questions at email@example.com or 612-750-9777.
-- Blue Ridge (Va.) Church of the Brethren will observe its 130th anniversary on Sunday, Sept. 17.
– Two weekends in September will be filled with district conferences across the Church of the Brethren, held in the districts of Northern Indiana, South Central Indiana, Missouri and Arkansas, Southern Pennsylvania, West Marva, and Pacific Northwest. Northern Indiana District will be hosted at Union Center Church of the Brethren in Nappanee, Ind., on Sept 15-16. South Central Indiana District meets at Camp Mack near Milford, Ind., on Sept. 16. Missouri and Arkansas District will be meeting at Windermere Conference Center in Roach, Mo., on Sept. 15-16. Southern Pennsylvania District will gather at New Fairview Church of the Brethren in York, Pa., on Sept. 15-16. West Marva District will be hosted by Moorefield (W.Va.) Church of the Brethren on Sept. 15-16. Pacific Northwest District will be at Covington (Wash.) Church of the Brethren on Sept. 22-24.
-- The Pacific Southwest District Office is moving from the campus of Hillcrest, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in La Verne, Calif., to space in Pomona (Calif.) Fellowship Church of the Brethren effective Sept. 1. The office has a new phone number: 909-406-5367. Other contact information including e-mail and mailing addresses remain the same.
-- Annual Conference moderator Samuel Sarpiya will be leading a workshop titled “A Story of Biblical Peacemaking” on Saturday, Sept. 30, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at Harrisonburg (Va.) First Church of the Brethren. Ordained and licensed ministers who attend can earn .3 continuing education units. The workshop is sponsored by the Pastoral Support Committee of the Shenandoah District Ministerial Leadership Team. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. The cost is $10, and reservations are due by Sept. 25 by calling or e-mailing Sandy Kinsey at 540-234-8555 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Virlina District is offering a new church development retreat led by Intercultural Ministries director Gimbiya Kettering on the theme, “Justice Like Water–Examining Racism,” on Oct. 20-22. The retreat is held at the W.E Skelton 4-H Center in Wirtz, Va. “This retreat will be examining issues of racism in the church with special emphasis on church planting and evangelism,” said an announcement. “Sharing about racism is especially relevant in our current context. Be inspired, encouraged and motivated with other brothers and sisters longing to grow and help others in the process of church planting.” Lodging is available at the center, with three meals included, for $150 (double room for 2 nights), $110 (double room for 1 night), $135 (single room for 1 night), $210 (single room for 2 nights), or $80 (commuter for 2 days). For more information or a brochure, contact Anne Mitchell at 540-345-5030 or email@example.com . Brochures are also online at http://virlina.org/news/district-news.html .
-- The Bridgewater (Va.) Retirement Community holds an annual fall festival on Sept. 15-16 planned by the Bridgewater Home Auxiliary. The event takes place at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds with music, food, and a number of auctions including a silent auction and live auctions of artwork, quilts, antiques, and more.
-- McPherson (Kan.) College began the 2017 fall semester by welcoming the largest class of freshman to campus in more than 40 years, reports a release from the college. “The freshman class of more than 200 coupled with a fall-to-fall overall retention rate of 75 percent continues the college’s 20-year steady trend of enrollment growth. First time freshman numbered more than 200, all new students totaled nearly 270, and McPherson College total enrollment is more than 700.” The release quoted Christi Hopkins, vice president for enrollment management: “We are very excited that students are continuing to choose McPherson College. It is a strong endorsement of the quality programs and faculty that can be found on our campus.” The college was listed as the top-ranked small college in Kansas on Money Magazine’s 2017 “Best Colleges for Your Money,” the release said.
-- Church World Service (CWS) has announced a call-in day today “to tell elected leaders to keep the DACA program intact.” CWS is concerned that the federal government could terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which “would turn our nation’s back on immigrant youth who are valued members of our communities,” said the announcement. “Terminating DACA would place the nearly 800,000 DREAMers whom the program allows to work and live legally in the United States at immediate risk of deportation.” DREAMers are undocumented immigrants who were brought into the US as young children, and who have grown up in the US. “DACA recipients should not be used a political bargaining chip to increase a deportation force and tear apart families and communities,” the release said. CWS is calling elected officials to “support a clean passage” of S.1615/H.R.3440, the Dream Act of 2017 (www.interfaithimmigration.org/2017/08/25/action-tell-the-white-house-congress-that-you-oppose-terminating-daca ).
-- PBS News Hour has published a report that “Boko Haram has used 83 children as human bombs so far this year.” The report by Synclaire Cruel, dated Aug. 23, says that “the radical militant group Boko Haram has already used four times as many child suicide bombers in northeast Nigeria this year than it did in 2016,” citing the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Eighty-three children have been used as “human bombs” since the start of 2017, including 55 girls and 27 boys. “In once instance, a baby was also strapped to a girl,” the report said. “The use of children, especially girls, as human bombs, has now become one of the most defining and alarming features of the conflict in northeastern Nigeria,” said Milen Kidane, UNICEF’s chief of child protection. Find the full report at www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/boko-haram-used-83-children-human-bombs-far-year .
-- Several Church of the Brethren members have been participating with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in recent weeks, in news provided to Newsline by Rick Polhamus. Completing the CPT training were Jennifer Keeney Scarr, pastor at Trotwood (Ohio) Church of the Brethren who graduated from Bethany Theological Seminary in 2015 with an emphasis in Peace Studies and a ministry focus in Conflict Transformation, and who spent a few years teaching nonviolent conflict resolution to teens; Michael Himlie, a student at Manchester University from Minnesota, and previously a Brethren Volunteer Service worker who has been active with New Community Project and Brethren Disaster Ministries as well as the Ministry of Reconciliation and On Earth Peace; and Turner Ritchie of Richmond (Ind.) Church of the Brethren and also a former BVSer who has studied Peace Studies at Manchester University concentrating in Chinese history and politics, and who has worked at the Asian Rural Institute empowering rural leaders from Africa and South/South East Asia in sustainable rural developmen. Ritchie also attended CPT’s US/Mexico Borderlands delegation in February this year. In addition, Brethren Woods directors Katie and Tim Heishman recently participated in CPT’s Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Delegation in Manitoba and Ontario, Canada. Tim Heishman reported to Polhamus: “We learned so much about racism, colonialism, and the experience of Native Americans in North America.” A summary of the CPT training and a prayer for the participants can be found at
-- Two creative Brethren are collaborating on a new musical called “Plain Paper: Amish News That’s Print To Fit.” Author and pastor Frank Ramirez, of Nappanee, Ind., and composer Steve Engle, of Alexandria Pa., have set the musical in Nappanee, where the script follows two outsiders who come to film a reality show “exposing” the local Amish community. “One of them is intrigued by the success of the Amish Newspaper ‘The Vision,’ which thrives while mainstream newspapers fail,” explained a release. “Hyrum Yoder, an Amish widower with three children, whose wife died in a buggy accident, wants to buy a new farm before he remarries and is tempted to take part in the television show.” The musical is described as taking on the questions of how we tell the truths of the faith, and what powerful answers Christians can give to the lies of the world. The Anabaptist heritage is reflected in songs like “Mennonites in Big Black Cars,” “Corn Roast,” and “The Martyr’s Mirror.” In development since 2014, this is the fifth muscial Ramirez and Engle have co-authored. It was presented in a different form under a different title at Union Center Church of the Brethren before 550 people during three performances in 2016. This new version is the next step in its development before a full-scale production next year at the Round Barn Theatre. On two upcoming Sundays, Sept. 10 and 17, at 6 p.m., the musical will be presented as staged readings at the Locke Township Meeting Hall adjacent to the Round Barn Theatre at Amish Acres. Admission is a donation to FCDC. General admission seating can be reserved by calling 800-800-4942 or through www.amishacres.com .
Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Chris Douglas, Kristin Flory, Kathleen Fry-Miller, Kendra Harbeck, Pat Krabacher, Nancy Miner, Meredith Owen, Rick Polhamus, Samuel Sarpiya, Roy Winter, Jay Wittmeyer, and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Over the summer, Newsline has gone to an every-other-week schedule, with the next regularly scheduled issue to feature a review of Inspiration 2017: National Older Adult Conference (NOAC). Please send news tips and submissions to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org .