Newsline for June 17, 2017




“Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street” (Lamentations 2:19).

globe and candle with text from Lamentations 2:19
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

NEWS
1) Stop the violence, end the famine
2) The denomination’s spiritual directors hold annual retreat
3) Brethren join Heifer for earthquake reconstruction in Nepal
4) Global Mission worker carries out ministry of presence in Vietnam
5) EYN loses five church members in Boko Haram attack

6) Brethren bits: Job openings, church anniversaries, news from districts, new Springs Academy for laity, opposition to proposed federal budget cuts, new Brethren hymn for Father’s Day, Chibok schoolgirls graduate from high school, and more


**********

Quote of the week:
    
“I LOVE coming to camp! It is my happy place!!”

-- One of the reflections from youth who attended this year’s senior high camp at Camp Mount Hermon in Western Plains District. The district shared a letter from Charla Kingery, co-director of the camp, that included numerous reflections from campers and staff.

**********

A note to readers: The next issue of Newsline will appear July 3 with a full review of the 2017 Annual Conference.

Onsite coverage of Annual Conference and related events in Grand Rapids, Mich., is at www.brethren.org/ac/2017/coverage starting Monday, June 26, with pre-Conference events and photo albums. The opening worship service of the Annual Conference is held the evening of Wednesday, June 28. The Conference ends at around noon on Sunday, July 2, after a closing worship service in which the whole denomination is invited to attend as a virtual congregation via webcast.

Find an index page with links to all the Conference coverage including news, photo albums, webcasts, worship resources, and more at www.brethren.org/ac/2017/coverage .

**********





1) Stop the violence, end the famine

Newly arrived refugees carry their belongings through the Dadaab camp in northeastern Kenya. Dadaab has swelled as thousands of Somalis flee drought and famine.
Photo by Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance

By Roy Winter and Jeff Boshart

It now seems undeniable that famines in our global world are directly related to war and violence. A famine is usually the intersection of deep political, racial, or social injustices compounding food insecurity, malnutrition, and drought found in at-risk communities. If we mix in war and uncontained violence, humanitarian response actors can’t respond and the crisis is elevated to a famine.

If we can reach the people, we can prevent the famine. The last decade of escalating violence in Africa and the Middle East has led to the largest refugee crisis since World War II, further resulting in malnutrition, hunger, starvation, and now famine. In reference to the growing famine in South Sudan, World Food Program South Sudan director Joyce Luma stated, “This famine is manmade.” While water shortages and decreased rainfall are part of the crisis, it is the violence and lack of security that prevents aid from reaching malnourished and starving people. 

Famine is a technical term used when one in five households faces extreme food shortages, more than 30 percent of the population is acutely malnourished, and there are at least two hunger-related deaths per 10,000 each day. When a famine is declared, the world already has failed to protect basic human rights and people are dying of starvation. 

South Sudan has two regions already experiencing famine, while northeast Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen are at a very high risk of famine due to war, government policy or inaction, and drought.  Some experts suggest parts of northeast Nigeria  have escalated to a famine, but the security situation is so bad that aid workers can’t assess the situation. Severe food insecurities and malnutrition are already prevalent in these countries and others in the region such as Ethiopia and Kenya. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net) reports 70 million people are in need of food assistance across 45 countries, an unprecedented level of world hunger. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien reports that “we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the UN.”

To mount a large-scale response to the threat of famine, the United Nations has requested $4.4 billion in aid, though the UN has received less than $1 billion in pledges. Most large aid organizations are trying to raise funds to prevent worse atrocities, but they find it difficult as many donors are “fatigued” by the constant needs from the crises in the last years. Church of the Brethren donors also may be feeling this fatigue as the Nigeria Crisis Response continues.

Preventing famine

Given the resources, beliefs, and practices of the Church of the Brethren, we strive to prevent famine with two key ministry areas: the Global Food Initiative (GFI) and Brethren Disaster Ministries. The GFI (formerly the Global Food Crisis Fund) was founded in direct response to famine in the Horn of Africa in the 1980s.

In the past 35 years, the GFI and many other non-profit ministries and agencies, in an effort to prevent famine and malnutrition, have gradually shifted away from famine relief and toward allocating development funds to projects and places where hunger is chronic. Too often a lack of government services and/or the existence of structural injustice result in communities with deeply rooted poverty. In this context, simply providing food, funds, or material aid will be ineffective, and possibly even harmful. The GFI development approach has proven to be very effective in Haiti and continues the community development that began during the 2010 earthquake response.

Brethren Disaster Ministries, funded by the Emergency Disaster Fund, responds to natural and human-caused emergencies and refugee crises. This programing often starts by providing emergency services such as food, water, and shelter to help save lives and prevent suffering. As quickly as possible, programing transitions to community re-development and long-term recovery. The goal is to help families become increasingly self-supporting through the crisis recovery. As the recovery programs continue, Brethren Disaster Ministries partners more with the GFI to provide holistic recovery in these communities.

Two important examples of Church of the Brethren programs preventing famine are happening in Nigeria and South Sudan. In these long-term mission points, although at very different levels of development, Brethren already have helped avert malnutrition and are preventing famine through large-scale and smaller grassroots organizing. Brethren Disaster Ministries, with grants from the Emergency Disaster Fund, works with the GFI to provide emergency food and supplies, while also supporting sustainable agricultural development and food security. This work is combined with efforts for effective community development, peace building, and trauma healing.  It may be that our many efforts at peace building will have the greatest impact on food security in the long term. When people live in peace, disasters can be overcome as neighbors from near and far support each other. 

Highlights of this important work

Northeast Nigeria, as part of the Nigeria Crisis Response:
-- More than 95 separate food distributions
-- Distributions provided in 30 different areas
-- Assisting over 36,500 family units (averaging 6 people per family)
-- Seeds and farm implements provided to displaced persons and newly settled families
-- Seeds and fertilizer provided to 8,000 families who had returned home from displacement
-- 6 agricultural leaders attended ECHO conference
-- 5 agricultural leaders attended a soybean innovation lab  research farm in Ghana
-- Goat trial project
-- Vaccinations for 10,000 chickens
-- $1,770,717 total food and agricultural ministry expenses from 2014 to 2016
-- $4,403,574 total response and ministry 2014 to 2016

The situation in South Sudan is so difficult that even sending funds into the country to support ministry is challenging. With a new Peace Center in Torit as a base, and partnerships with the Africa Inland Church, many grassroots programs are having major impacts on local communities. A master ministry plan for South Sudan focuses on long-term development in the states in southeast South Sudan. This plan includes significant agricultural development programs. 

South Sudan, as part of the Church of the Brethren mission point:
-- Peace Center built with plans to expand the campus outside the city of Torit
-- Toyota Landcruiser purchased to support all South Sudan mission and relief activities
-- Emergency food supplied to villages in crisis and to displaced families traveling through Torit
-- Tarps, shelter materials, and tools provided to villages that have burned
-- South Sudanese farmers trained in Farming God’s Way, a faith-based agricultural development program
-- Mediation and reconciliation programing helping to build peace between people of different towns and tribes

In Kenya, severe drought is affecting 2.7 million men, women, and children, and is expected to cause 70 percent of crops to fail. The Church of the Brethren is supporting a Church World Service response seeking to prevent this crisis from becoming worse. A grant of $25,000 from the Emergency Disaster Fund will help provide water and emergency food assistance. 

Working together

Together, we can prevent the next famine. With the support of many Church of the Brethren congregations, disaster auctions, and church members, we are making a difference in the midst of enormous challenges facing the world today. When necessary, we provide material aid such as food, clean water, shelter, medicines, and clothing. We then focus on partnering with local churches and church leaders.

We seek to not only make an impact in the short-term, but also to plant the seeds of hope--and sometimes actual seeds--that will allow for a future when “they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken” (Micah 4:4).

-- Roy Winter is associate executive director of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries ( www.brethren.org/bdm ). Jeff Boshart is manager of the Global Food Initiative ( www.brethren.org/gfi ) and the Emerging Global Mission Fund.

Find a “Guardian” photo essay on the effects of famine in northern Cameroon, an area where many refugees from Boko Haram violence have sought safety, at www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jun/16/lake-chad-crisis-one-meal-a-day-pictures .





2) The denomination’s spiritual directors hold annual retreat

The denomination's spiritual directors gather for their 2017 retreat

The denomination's spiritual directors gather for their 2017 retreat

By Debbie Eisenbise

Each May, spiritual directors from throughout the Church of the Brethren meet for an annual retreat and continuing education. Shepherd’s Spring Outdoor Ministry and Retreat Center in Sharpsburg, Md., provides a beautiful and quiet setting for this event, which includes opportunities for worship, prayer, silence, creative expression, peer supervision, and keynote presentations.

This year’s keynote speaker was Betsey Beckman, spiritual director, sacred dancer, choreographer, founder of The Dancing Word ( www.thedancingword.com ), and InterPlay leader. Through the Abbey of the Arts and in collaboration with others, she leads pilgrimages, creates resources, and experiential training for spiritual directors around the world. She has facilitated numerous events for Spiritual Directors International. From May 22-24, Brethren spiritual directors from throughout the country came together to learn from her about Hildegard of Bingen; experience prayer and scripture in word, music, and movement; and explore embodiment and creativity in the midst of silence, worship, and natural beauty.

The retreat offers Brethren spiritual directors a unique opportunity to meet with peers and explore the practice of spiritual direction from within a shared tradition. Continuing education units are offered for participants, and opportunity is given for peer supervision and support.

Active spiritual directors, and chaplains and pastors who integrate contemplative practices into their ministries, are invited to attend next year’s retreat on May 21-23, 2018, at Shepherd’s Spring.

The Spiritual Directors Network is open to all who are receiving or have completed training as spiritual directors and who offer spiritual direction to individuals and/or groups. To join, fill out the survey at www.brethren.org/SpiritualDirectorsSurvey .

At this year’s Annual Conference on Friday, June 30, at 9 p.m., an insight session will be hosted by the Spiritual Directors Network to introduce spiritual direction to those interested. By the end of the year, a new webpage will provide online information for anyone seeking a Church of the Brethren spiritual director.

-- Debbie Eisenbise is director of Intergenerational Ministries for the Church of the Brethren and a member of the Congregational Life Ministries staff. She also is a spiritual director. For more information, contact deisenbise@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 306.





3) Brethren join Heifer for earthquake reconstruction in Nepal

A group of young adults taking part in a Church of the Brethren workcamp experience a vibrant intercultural moment, while in Nepal to do earthquake relief work with Heifer International.

A group of young adults taking part in a Church of the Brethren workcamp experience a vibrant intercultural moment, while in Nepal to do earthquake relief work with Heifer International.

By Jay Wittmeyer

Fourteen young adults from various Church of the Brethren districts traveled to Nepal to assist in post-earthquake recovery in Dhading District, east of Kathmandu. Assisted by Heifer International staff in Nepal, the young adult workcamp worked at two school sites in the mountain community of Kebalpur, which was not far from the epic center of the April 2015 earthquake that killed over 9,000 people. The workcamp group was led by Church of the Brethren staff members Emily Tyler and Jay Wittmeyer. 

The theme, “Say Hello,” based on 3 John 14 gave inspiration to the workcamp team. The verse emphasizes the significance of meeting in person, face to face. While the Church of the Brethren gave disaster grants to families through Heifer immediately after the earthquake, to replace animals and rebuild animal sheds and barns, the group desired to be present with Nepali families as they worked to rebuild their homes and communities.

In Kebalpur, every village was greatly impacted by the earthquake and up until now, very few have been able to rebuild. Most families are still living in small, tin-roof sheds. In addition to the hard work of construction, the workcampers were able to spend considerable time with school children, working and playing and singing.

One of the work sites was 1,200 feet above the road where workcampers were dropped off in the morning, and required a strenuous hike just to reach the school site. Briawna Wenger commented on how just this simple act of hiking to and from the school every day gave her insight and appreciation for the struggles the Neplese endure in their daily lives.

Arriving in Kathmandu, the workcampers oriented themselves to Nepal and walked to historical sites, including the monkey temple, Swayanbhunath. At the end of the trip, the team traveled to more Heifer working areas, and rode elephants into the jungles of Chitwan National Park.

-- Jay Wittmeyer is executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren. Emily Tyler serves as coordinator of the Workcamp Ministry. Find out more about the Church of the Brethren workcamps at www.brethren.org/workcamps .





4) Global Mission worker carries out ministry of presence in Vietnam

Global Mission worker Grace Mishler (second from left), with help from Vietnamese volunteers, assists a family who has a blind child.
Photo courtesy of Grace Mishler

Global Mission worker Grace Mishler (second from left), with help from Vietnamese volunteers, assists a family who has a blind child.

By Grace Mishler

The life of this program volunteer: a ministry of presence means being with a family when they find out, “Indeed, your infant is blind.”

The family traveled 12 hours on the bus from a remote village in the highlands of Vietnam in hopes their child was not blind. The baby was one of many premature babies who are diagnosed with retinopathy of prematurity. If diagnosed earlier, there are better chances of not going blind. It can be an avoidable blindness.

The family traveled 12 hours on the bus from a remote village in the highlands of Vietnam in hopes their child was not blind. The mother was exhausted. After hearing the child was blind, from a well-known eye surgeon, the parents needed to travel to the Children’s Hospital.

We traveled with them: two volunteers went with me. They were asked to come with me to provide counseling and support. I was there merely as a ministry of presence, as well as a coach and a supervisor for the two selected volunteers.

The trip to the hospital must have been very painful--just finding out that the child is blind, and needing to take the child to the hospital for a medical check up, but also being aware of the lines of people wanting to see the doctor for only three to four minutes.

We knew the mother was under stress as well as the father. We found a way to bypass the crowd by paying an additional $5, and the parents had better services with little time to wait. For poor people, the difference between $1 and $6 is too much to pay. Our project paid the $6. It was well spent in helping the family’s mental health for the day.

I’m happy to say the parents are now open to talk with another family who raised a blind girl from infancy. She’s now at a blind school and doing well.

I thank Dau Lam, the YMCA Person with Disability volunteer, who has skills in psychological counseling, as well as Bich Tram, a student with a compassionate heart. Also I thank the donors for making this happen.

This program volunteer joins other collaborative partners to improve the quality of life and service.

-- Grace Mishler, a Church of the Brethren member and a Global Mission and Service worker in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, has received honors for her work with disabled persons from Vietnamese government officials.





5) EYN loses five church members in Boko Haram attack

By Zakariya Musa

Five members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) were killed in a recent Boko Haram attack in Adamawa State. Reporting the incident happened in a no-network area of Adamawa State, EYN district church secretary Mildlu Rev. Bitrus Kabu said Wakara Village was attacked from 7-9 p.m. on Thursday, June 8.

He said five men were killed by the attackers, and the attack came as a surprise because they have experienced relative peace for some months in the area. “We buried all,” he said.

The attackers went away with some food items, motorcycles, and other things, leaving the village unoccupied as people fled for their lives to other places for refuge.
 
-- Zakariya Musa is on the communications staff of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria.





6) Brethren bits


Rebecca Dali represented Nigerian NGOs at a UN conference on refugees, June 2017

Nigerian Brethren leader Rebecca Dali has been in Geneva, Switzerland, for a United Nations consultation on the “Global Compact and Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.” She has been posting photos from the consultation on Facebook, and commented, “I thank God am privileged to be chosen by UNHCR in Nigeria to represent them and also to register Centre for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives [CCEPI] as one of the 481 humanitarian NGOs in the World. I am the only Nigerian this famous UNHCR annual consultation.”

-- The Brethren Heritage Center in Brookville, Ohio, seeks an executive director. The center “has been growing in its mission of serving during its first 14 years [and] has now reached a level of maturity in which is it ready to employ a full time executive director,” said an announcement. The center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the heritage of the various religious groups who trace their heritage to the first seven Brethren who were baptized in the Eder River in Schwarzenau, Germany, in 1708. The center collects historical Brethren materials and focuses on research and teaching. A team of approximately 25 volunteers operates the center, which is open three days a week. The executive director, working with the board, will manage all aspects of the center including strategic planning; policies and procedures; outreach; fundraising; donor relations; supervision of staff, students, volunteers; guidance of the collection development, acquisition, preservation, and reference activities; management of endowments and special funds; promoting the archives regionally, nationally, and internationally. Salary and benefits are negotiable. For more information contact amack1708@brethrenheritagecenter.org or 937-833-5222.

-- Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) seeks a communications coordinator to facilitate amplifying the voices of CPT partners and articulate the organization’s mission, vision, and values through the framework of undoing oppressions. The position involves working closely with field teams to strategize and coordinate CPT’s story-telling vehicles and mechanisms in ways that engage world-wide supporters to take action for peace. Responsibilities include coordinating the ongoing development, assessment, and implementation of organization-wide communications plans, managing the organization’s web platforms and social media presence, producing promotional, educational, and fundraising materials, and participating in the overall work of CPT’s Administrative Team that cares for the whole “web” of the organization. This person works closely with field teams and others in the areas of development and outreach. The position involves some international travel to meetings and project sites each year. Candidates should demonstrate excellent writing, editing, and verbal communication capabilities in English, commitment to grow in the work of undoing oppressions, and ability to work independently and collaboratively as part of a dispersed team across continents. CPT is a Christian-identified organization with multi-faith/spiritually diverse membership, which got its start in the Historic Peace Churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers). CPT seeks individuals who are capable, responsible, and rooted in faith/spirituality to work for peace as members of teams trained in the disciplines of nonviolence. CPT is committed to building an organization that reflects the rich diversity of the human family in ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender identity, language, national origin, race, and sexual orientation. Salary is $24,000 per year, with 100 percent employer-paid health, dental, and vision coverage, and four weeks annual vacation. Location is negotiable, with Chicago preferred. Start date is negotiable, with July 13 preferred. Apply by submitting, electronically and in English, the following to hiring@cpt.org : a cover letter, resume, two-page English writing sample, list of three references with e-mail and daytime telephone numbers, links to multimedia content including videos, infographics, interactives, etc. Applications are due by June 25.

-- The Alliance for Fair Food seeks an experienced organizer to co-coordinate the involvement of people of faith in the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) Campaign for Fair Food. Ideal candidates are highly responsible, work well in teams as part of a fast-paced environment, and possess excellent written and verbal skills. To learn more go to https://static1.squarespace.com/static/54481a36e4b005db391f3e20/t/59271885f7e0abf5227a553c/1495734406579/17_AFF_Faith_Job_Announcement.pdf .

-- Interfaith Power and Light, an interfaith coalition working on environmental concerns, seeks a program manager to serve as the second core staff person working with director Joelle Novey. The program manager will help deliver programs and support advocacy campaigns that engage local religious communities in the restoration of the planet. Find more information at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qJ_lLRN3AWKgNH6H7EUdqoPG_m4QE0wtiIILfNcvkPE/edit?ts=59235266 .

-- The Washington Office on Latin America seeks to fill two open positions: an entry-level administrative staff person to work on the Citizen Security and Border programs, providing administrative and research support to senior staff; and an entry-level administrative staff person to work on the Mexico program, providing administrative and some research assistance to senior staff. The Washington Office on Latin America is a fast-paced human rights organization working in Washington, D.C., and in Latin America. For more information about these two positions go to www.wola.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/CitSec-Border-PA-Final-PDF.pdf and www.wola.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Mexico-PA-PDF-Final.pdf .

-- Two Church of the Brethren congregations are looking forward to 100th anniversary celebrations in the fall:
     Prairie City Church in Northern Plains District is celebrating 100 years on Oct. 14-15. “Save the date,” said an announcement. “We will have Jeff Bach, former pastor at PCCOB, and current director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College, as our guest. Jeff will assist in our Love Feast service on Saturday, October 14, and preach on Sunday morning, October 15. We invite you to join us.”
     Green Hill Church in Salem, Va., will celebrate its 100th anniversary on Sunday, Oct. 22, with Virlina District executive minister David K. Shumate as speaker, and former pastors participating. J.R. Cannaday will be the guest organist. A potluck meal will follow the service. An informal program will be held in the afternoon featuring former members, including Bill Kinzie and David Tate performing musical selections.

-- “Fans needed for local refugee families,” said an announcement from Southern Ohio District, which has created a Refugee Resettlement Task Team. In conversation with Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley--the only agency in the area of Dayton, Ohio, that works with the state department to resettle refugees--the team discovered that the agency has a need for box fans. “Due to budget restraints, local refugee’s apartments do not have air conditioning,” said the district announcement. The agency is seeking donations to provide a box fan for each bedroom housing refugees. During the week beginning on Father’s Day, June 18, Southern Ohio District will be collecting box fans at four locations in the Dayton area: Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren, Happy Corner Church of the Brethren, Troy Church of the Brethren, and Oakland Church of the Brethren. For more information contact Linda Brandon at lbrandon@woh.rr.com or 937-232-8084.

Dunker Punks Podcast logo

-- “Fans of the Brethren Voices TV show will enjoy the tables being turned to hear the story behind their stories!” said an announcement of the latest Dunker Punks podcast, an audio show by Church of the Brethren young adults from across the country, hosted by Arlington (Va.) Church of the Brethren. The podcast features the ‘Brethren Voices’ community access television show about what Brethren do as a matter of faith. Listen to Kevin Schatz's interview with Ed Groff and Brent Carlson on the showpage arlingtoncob.org/dpp or subscribe on itunes at http://bit.ly/DPP_iTunes . Other recent Dunker Punks podcast episodes include special music by Jacob Crouse, an episode on refugee services by Ashley Haldeman, and Emmett Eldred interviewing Annual Conference moderator-elect Samuel Sarpiya.

-- Senior Citizen’s Camp was held at Camp Galilee in West Marva District on June 6, with 43 people in attendance. “There is always lots of food, fun, laughter, and good Christian fellowship,” said the district newsletter. “We appreciate the team (Grover Duling, Randy Shoemaker and Fred and Marge Roy) who work so hard to prepare for the day’s activities.” The senior citizens group gave a freewill offering of $154 to the Camp Galilee mission project of the year, which is Heifer International.

-- Virlina District’s 2017 Practice of Ministry Day will be Saturday, Aug. 5, 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Summerdean Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va. The theme will be “Addressing Difficult Issues in Pastoral Care.” Leadership will be provided by Bryan Harness, an ordained minister and a hospital chaplain, and Beth Jarrett, pastor of First Church of the Brethren in Harrisonburg, Va. Ministers may received continuing education credit for attending. 

-- A new Springs Academy for the Saints (or laity) is announced by Springs of Living Water, an initiative for church renewal. “Using Ephesians 4 where pastors are to equip the saints for the work of ministry, this new academy over the phone will be similar in design to the well-received Springs Academy for Pastors,” said the announcement. “Beginning with renewal through spiritual disciplines using ‘Celebration of Discipline, the Path to Spiritual Growth’ by Richard Foster, the disciplines will be integrated into 5 sessions over 12 weeks on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. [eastern time] starting September 17. A course guide will move through the path of church renewal that builds on the strengths of the church.... Each church discerns a biblical passage for a vision and plan and moves to thorough training and implementing a three-year plan to start. Just as in the Academy for Pastors, Saints walk along; in this case with Saints, pastors walk along with readings and discussions.” The first course is tentatively set to begin Sunday, Sept. 17, concluding Dec. 10. For more information go to www.churchrenewalservant.org . To register, call David or Joan Young at 717 615-4515 or e-mail davidyoung@churchrenewalservant.org .

-- Bread for the World has announced a mobilization of Christian leaders from across the theological and political spectrum to oppose proposed federal budget cuts “that would harm people living in hunger and poverty. The leaders will be flying in from across the country to personally deliver their message,” said a release. The Christian leaders belong to the Circle of Protection. They will release a statement during a press conference on June 21 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and then will go to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress. Proposed cuts that the group opposes include cuts to programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps), Medicaid, and foreign assistance. The Circle of Protection is calling on “political leaders in the House and the Senate to express their faith convictions in their votes.” Christian leaders who are taking part represent a wide variety of denominations and organizations, ranging from the Sojourners community to the Salvation Army, the National Association of Evangelicals to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Major ecumenical partners of the Church of the Brethren also are represented, including Christian Churches Together in the USA and the National Council of Churches. For more information go to www.circleofprotection.us .

-- The United Church of Christ (UCC) has distributed a release opposing the federal administration’s proposed budget cuts that would phase out the US Institute of Peace within the next two years. “The Institute of Peace, an independent institute founded by Congress in 1984, traces its roots back to the UCC--particularly the former members and pastors of Rock Spring UCC in Arlington, Va.,” said the release. “UCC leaders believe a move to shutter the USIP would be short-sighted, should Congress authorize it in a spending bill. Michael Neuroth, international policy advocate for the UCC office on Capitol Hill, believes the Institute for Peace “plays a critical role in strengthening the peacebuilding work in the U.S. and around the world,” he said in the release. “The unique space USIP occupies between the government and civil society allows both policy experts and peace practitioners to come together and envision ways forward in some of the most intractable conflicts.” According to the release, the administration proposes a cut in funding for the Institute for Peace to $19 million for 2018, from $35 million in 2017, and then to no funding at all in 2019. “On the other side of that, the budget proposal calls for an increase of military spending by about $54 billion,” the release noted. Find the release at www.ucc.org/news_with_roots_in_the_ucc_us_institute_of_peace_faces_uncertain_future_06072017 .

-- Regina Cyzick Harlow, associate pastor of Mountain View Fellowship Church of the Brethren, has written a new hymn for Father’s Day, setting new lyrics to the tune of “Brethren, We Have Met to Worship.” The new lyrics are being shared by Shenandoah District. Harlow “uses both the faith of biblical men and also recognizes ordinary fathers, brothers, sons and men of simple lives,” said the district newsletter. “She shares the lyrics as a Father's Day gift to Shenandoah District congregations.” Click here for her new lyrics: http://files.constantcontact.com/071f413a201/737ec8fa-2270-4492-ad8b-382fbf1d63af.pdf .

-- “Take My Hand and Lead Me, Father” written by William Beery, was one of the hymns sung at a public hymn sing led by Brethren, Mennonite, and Amish hymn leaders in the Ephrata area of Pennsylvania. “Every couple of years, Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society and the Swiss Pioneer Associates host a combined hymn sing,” reported Lancaster Online. John Dietz, a local Old Order River Brethren song leader, is quoted as saying: “We’re all different personalities. We’re all different temperaments. Singing is one way of merging that.” Read the article and find links to recordings at http://lancasteronline.com/features/together/listen-to-centuries-old-amish-brethren-and-mennonite-hymns-still/article_d2282404-4d47-11e7-bd81-53d177e361d5.html .

Two of the Chibok schoolgirls graduated from high school in the United States in early June, with help from Education Must Continue Initiative and a human rights lawyer who has facilitated several of the released girls' study in the US.
Photo by Becky Gadzama

Two of the Chibok schoolgirls graduated from high school in the United States in early June, with help from Education Must Continue Initiative and a human rights lawyer who has facilitated several of the released girls' study in the US.

-- A release from the Nigerian nonprofit Education Must Continue Initiative reports that two of the first Chibok schoolgirls to escape their captors successfully graduated from an American high school in early June. “The two girls known simply by their first names Debbie and Grace graduated after completing junior year (11th grade) and senior year (12 grade) at a prestigious private international school in the Washington metro area,” the release said. “Debbie and Grace were part of the first 57 girls who escaped from Boko Haram terrorists after the mass abduction of almost 300 Chibok schoolgirls in April 2014. Unlike most of their colleagues who jumped out of trucks en route, the two were taken all the way to the terrorists camp in Sambisa before they escaped and made it back home in a terrifying journey that took about a week with their captors in hot pursuit. They were the last to escape Boko Haram until last year's escape of Amina Ali after two years in captivity.” The two girls were among a dozen sponsored to study abroad by Education Must Continue Initiative. On hand to witness their graduation was a delegation from Nigeria including Education Must Continue founders Paul and Becky Gadzama; the parent of one of the girls, who traveled all the way from Chibok in northeast Nigeria; a Chibok girl currently pursuing a degree program in an American university, who cut short her summer vacation in Nigeria to return for the graduation; the girls’ American host families; and Emmanuel Ogebe, a human rights lawyer who has helped facilitate the girls’ study in the United States, and his family.

-- In related news, the current issue of “People” magazine features an interview with Lydia Pogu and Joy Bishara, two of the Chibok schoolgirls who escaped from their captors early on, and who are among the small group who have been living and studying in the United States. Find a preview of the interview online at http://people.com/human-interest/nigerian-teen-girls-escape-boko-haram .


**********
Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jeff Boshart, Linda Brandon, Rebecca Dali, Debbie Eisenbise, Chris Ford, Roxane Hill, Suzanne Lay, Grace Mishler, Zakariya Musa, Roy Winter, Jay Wittmeyer, David Young, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at cobnews@brethren.org . Newsline appears every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source.

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