Sisters Julia and Marina Moneta Facini travelled from Campinas, Brazil, to attend National Youth Conference. They were two of six international participants who were able to get visas to attend the conference through the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service.
At ages 20 and 15 respectively, this trip to NYC is the first time the sisters have traveled outside of their country alone. Having grown up in Igreja da Irmandade (Church of the Brethren in Brazil), attending NYC has given them so many ideas for ways they can serve their community at home.
“We have a dream that we could carry something from here to our country. We have seen this one body of young people and we want to start something like this in Brazil,” said Marina. Julia agrees, saying that seeing women preach and serve as pastors here inspires her to follow her calling of becoming a pastor, a dream that she has had for some time.
Like many international attendees, the Moneta Facini sisters and their families have built relationships over the years with executive director of Global Mission and Service Jay Wittmeyer and other church leaders. Julia and Marina traveled to NYC as part of the Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren youth group because their family has a long-term relationship with the pastor.
Other international participants at NYC include Riseimy Raquel Arias Baez, Rosa Amelia Mata Quinones, and Olisberki Castillo Alegre from Spain, and Supreet Makwan from India. Makwan traveled to Fort Collins with the Illinois-Wisconsin District bus so that he could build relationships with youth from Naperville (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, which has a large Indian population.
Two participants who are part of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethre in Nigeria) are Zakaria Bulus, a Manchester University student who is interning in the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, and Elisha Shavah who traveled from Nigeria to attend this conference.
Makwan was one of 16 guests from India that Global Mission and Service invited to attend NYC. Visas were denied for many invited guests, despite letters of sponsorship written by the Global Mission and Service staff to the US State Department. Wittmeyer doesn’t see the lack of visas as a result of partisan politics so much as a control implemented for the many people seeking to immigrate to the US.
Working in global ministries for many years, Wittmeyer has witnessed a consistent denial of guest visas for church events, which he attributes to bureaucratic indifference and a systemic inequality of the number of guest visas issued for various nationalities.
Despite his frustration with the visa denials, Wittmeyer is grateful that the participants who did receive visas could have travel arrangements made quickly. By having these guests participate fully in NYC, he believes the wider church has an opportunity to hear international voices speak into issues and offer their unique perspectives.
Many of the international Brethren voices directly counter a prosperity theology common in their nations and in the United States, and they remind the church of what it means to live following Jesus. Simply. Peacefully. Together.
Julia illustrated this voice by saying how much she has loved the worship and community at NYC and at the Elizabethtown church. Her home church in Campinas, Brazil, has a different and beautiful tradition of sharing the message, with church attendees forming a circle and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak on scripture and teaching.
“We grow together” in worship, Julia said. “We have a good community. We love each other and help each other. We are family.”
Her words echo the sentiments expressed at worship and through community at NYC. Her words also illuminate how God’s Spirit moves in the world.
-- Mary Dulabaum contributed this report.
Members of the NYC 2018 Press Team contributed to this reporting. The team includes Laura Brown, Allie Dulabaum, Mary Dulabaum, Nevin Dulabaum, Eddie Edmonds, Russ Otto, Frank Ramirez, Alane Riegel, Glenn Riegel, and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.