Newsline for January 18, 2006

“I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart.” — Psalm 138:1a


1) Global Food Crisis Fund makes $75,265 in grants.
2) Council relocates office, revises exhibit guidelines.
3) Disaster projects close in Louisiana, open in Mississippi.
4) Brethren bits: Personnel, job openings, and much more.


5) Garrison retires as General Board’s director of Human Resources.
6) Daniel begins as administrative executive for Idaho District.
7) Berster named president of Peter Becker Community.


8) University of La Verne group spends Thanksgiving in Gulf.

For more Brethren news, go to, click on “News” to find a news feature, more “Brethren bits,” links to Brethren in the news, and links to photo albums and Newsline archive. The page is updated daily or as often as possible.

1) Global Food Crisis Fund makes $75,265 in grants.

The General Board’s Global Food Crisis Fund has made $75,265 in six grants for hunger relief programs in Guatemala, Armenia, Niger, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, and the US. The six grants bring to $325,000 granted from the fund since a year ago, and a bit over $750,000 over the past two years, reported fund manager Howard Royer.

He also celebrated the giving to the fund in 2005. “Given the emergencies and their attendant needs of 2005, the church’s giving for longterm development programs is quite remarkable,” Royer said.

An allocation of $20,265 has been given for costs for an ongoing trees, cisterns, and stoves program in Guatemala in 2006. The program is being carried out by Church of the Brethren mission staff.

A grant of $15,000 will provide start-up assistance for 15 Church of the Brethren Foods Resource Bank growing projects in 2006.

A grant of $12,000 will fund rehabilitation of the environment and enhancement of productivity in Zimbabwe’s Zhomba area. The initiative partners with Heifer International in a three-year, agro-ecology project focused on reclamation, protection, and sustainable utilization of natural resources. Additionally, the grant will help fund work with human nutrition and food security with communities impacted by HIV/AIDS.

A grant of $10,000 is going for food security, economic, and social development work among rural women in Armenia who are heads of households. The initiative joins Heifer International to help provide seeds and livestock, as well as nurturing relationships through rural women’s unions. Additionally, “pass-on” gifts will benefit women in neighboring countries of Georgia and Azerbaijan.

An additional allocation of $10,000 has gone for continuing food security measures in West Timor in Indonesia. This follows an initial $10,000 allocation given to Church World Service in 2005 for food security in West Timor.

An additional allocation of $8,000 will be spent for emergency and longterm development work in Niger. An initial $10,000 grant was given in 2005 to a Church World Service appeal for the work in Niger.

2) Council relocates office, revises exhibit guidelines.

The Annual Conference Council, the executive committee for the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, has given approval for the transfer of the Annual Conference Office from Elgin, Ill., to New Windsor, Md. The new office location after Aug. 31 will be the New Windsor Service Center, a property of the Church of the Brethren General Board.

The council met Dec. 7-8, 2005, in New Windsor, and gave final approval to the move in a conference call on Jan. 6, reported Conference secretary Fred Swartz. Also approved were a position description for the Annual Conference Assistant, a vacancy now open due to the resignation of Rose Ingold who held the post for six years. In other business, the council conducted a three-year performance review for the Conference’s executive director Lerry Fogle, approved updated guidelines for exhibits and literature distribution at Annual Conference, adopted a budget for 2006, and received reports.

Fogle said the office relocation comes as a result of “personnel changes and efficiency of operation for the Annual Conference Office in a central location.” The office’s new address on the New Windsor campus will be announced at a future date.

In the performance review, the council cited Fogle’s leadership of the Annual Conference as professional, innovative, and especially committed in Christian faith and family ideals and in loyalty to Conference and the church. The council engaged colleagues, Conference coordinators, and other members of the church at large in the evaluation process.

The council received progress reports from study committees and reviewed accomplishments toward the implementation of recent Conference actions. A special task force created by the council to evaluate reasons for declining attendance at Annual Conferences and to submit recommendations for the promotion of Conference is currently at work. Tracy L. Wiser of Myersville, Md., is chairing the task force. The council also made final plans for posting the Church of the Brethren’s “Manual of Organization and Polity” on the Annual Conference website.

Updated guidelines for exhibits and literature distribution were drafted by the Program and Arrangements Committee and submitted to the Council for final approval. The revised guidelines, effective Jan. 3, provide a more positive statement about criteria for granting exhibit space, expectations of exhibitors, and general issues related to literature distribution throughout Conference facilities, Fogle said. The committee “wants to emphasize that the guidelines contain revisions to the existing document; they are not a total rewrite of the original document,” he said.

The Aug. 2005 mailing of exhibitor applications for the 2006 Annual Conference contained the previous version of the guidelines. Both that version and the revised version were taken into consideration when applications for exhibitor status were reviewed, Fogle said. The updated guidelines will be available soon at the Conference website, click on “Policies and Guidelines” under “Minutes and Statements.” Questions can be addressed to Fogle at 800-323-8039 ext. 291 or; or write to the Annual Conference Office, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.

3) Disaster project close in Louisiana, open in Mississippi.

The Brethren Disaster Response program of the General Board has completed a Hurricane Rita clean-up project based in Roanoke, La., as of Dec. 17, 2005, and has moved a project repairing damage from Hurricane Katrina in southern Alabama across the state line to Mississippi.

During the two months that the project in the Lake Charles area of Louisiana was operating, more than 100 households received assistance with debris, tree removal, and roof tarping, reported Jane Yount, coordinator of Brethren Disaster Response. Volunteers Ed and Bonnie Bryan and Brethren Volunteer Service volunteers Jodi Eller and Joan and Phil Taylor headed up the effort with leadership from Roanoke Church of the Brethren and pastor James Balmer, and Lake Charles Community Church of the Brethren.

Brethren work teams accomplished much in the way of debris removal, roofing, and repairs in the area of Citronelle, Ala., since mid-September 2005. Over the weekend, the project moved to Mississippi, where the Brethren have been invited to assist with rebuilding and repair projects in George County. Volunteer housing is in the Crossroads Pentecostal Church parsonage outside of Lucedale, Yount reported. “The church is graciously providing this facility to us at no charge. We feel blessed by God’s provision so that we can continue his work on behalf of those who have suffered loss,” she said.

Another project continues in Pensacola, Fla., following Hurricane Ivan. “The Florida Panhandle was clobbered first by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, then by Hurricane Dennis in July 2005, affecting thousands of households in the poorest area of the state,” Yount said. “We said we were in for the long haul, and that has proven to be true.” The work in Florida consists mainly of repairs to water-damaged sections of homes, including drywall, floors, insulation, and siding.

At another continuing project in Belmont County, Ohio, since June 2005 volunteers have been doing repair work and completing rebuilding of homes damaged by flooding. Three additional rebuilds will be started after foundations are completed.

A training for new district disaster coordinators will be held at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., on April 24-26. “There has been quite a turnover in district disaster coordinators in the last year,” said Yount, who reported that there are new coordinators in about ten districts. Any district disaster coordinator who has never been to a training will be invited. A conference for all district disaster coordinators and disaster project directors is planned for 2007.

4) Brethren bits: Personnel, job openings, and much more.
  • Marisel Olivencia has been engaged on a contract basis by the Congregational Life Ministries of the General Board to assist with preparations for the 2006 Cross-Cultural Consultation and Celebration in Lancaster, Pa., May 4-7. She will provide services on the board’s behalf from Jan. 23-May 8. Her responsibilities will include reaching out to Spanish-speaking congregations, coordinating a youth event and day care for the celebration, and helping to coordinate information. Olivencia serves as part-time Hispanic pastor at First Church of the Brethren in Harrisburg, Pa. For more information about the Cross-Cultural Consultation and Celebration see
  • MAX (Mutual Aid eXchange) has named Carl Litwiller of Lancaster, Pa., as executive vice president of MAX Mutual Aid Ministries, and Scott Forland as executive vice president of Insurance Operations. Forland, who has been instrumental in merging 10 former mutual aid organizations into MAX, will oversee and manage insurance operations throughout the US and Canada. For more information about MAX see
  • The Church of the Brethren General Board seeks a fulltime director of Human Resources, located in Elgin, Ill. Responsibilities include developing, implementing, and managing human resources procedures and systems; promoting and maintaining employee relationships and development; maintaining accurate position descriptions and compensation system; assuring compliance with policies and employment law; facilitating periodic training events; directing the hiring process. Qualifications include a minimum of five years in a generalist position in human resources; communication skills; experience with computer systems including HRIS, word processing, and spreadsheets; progressive management and supervisory skills. Education and experience requirements include a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, with SHRM certification beneficial. A position description and application form are available on request. Application deadline is March 10. Qualified candidates are invited to complete the General Board application form, submit a résumé and letter of application, and request three references to send letters of recommendation to the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren General Board, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; 800-323-8039 ext. 258; Job openings in Church of the Brethren-related organizations are regularly posted at
  • The General Board seeks an associate director of Emergency Response to fill a fulltime position located at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Responsibilities include engaging church constituents in the activities of the program; maintaining ecumenical relationships; providing financial management in coordination with the director; giving oversight to maintenance, property, and equipment; providing supervision and training for staff and volunteers of Brethren Disaster Response and Disaster Child Care. Qualifications include experience in managing staff and volunteers; knowledge of house construction, repairs, and building codes; communication skills, with background in adult education, workshops, or other training experience; ability to travel extensively in the US. A bachelor’s degree is preferred. A position description and application form are available on request. Application deadline is Feb. 28. Qualified candidates are invited to complete the General Board application form, submit a resume and letter of application, and request three references to send letters of recommendation to the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren General Board, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; 800-323-8039 ext. 258;
  • The Annual Conference Office seeks a fulltime, salaried Annual Conference assistant. Start date is June 5. Location will be in New Windsor, Md. Position functions include administration of the daily operation of the Annual Conference office; office communications; supervision of part-time employees; work with convention centers and the Program and Arrangements Committee; establishment of offices at Annual Conference sites; creation, coordination, editing, and shipping of a variety of materials; coordination of responsibilities for meal events and insight sessions at Conferences. Skills and knowledge required include administrative and office management background; effective and pleasant communication style; software proficiency with Windows-based applications, Word, Excel, Quark; customer service skills; ability to travel to other states. A minimum of five years of progressive office responsibilities is required, as well as working with and training volunteers or other groups. A minimum of some college education, plus extensive experience, is required; a college graduate is preferred. Submit a cover letter, resume, application form, and three letters of reference by March 31 to the following address. Forms and information also are available from the Office of Human Resources, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; 800-323-8039 ext. 258;
  • The Annual Conference Office seeks a registration coordinator to fill a temporary, fulltime position from March 1 through May 31. Position functions include tasks related to the registration process of Annual Conference, registration reports, processing payments, serving as the initial contact person for registration, and other clerical functions as necessary. Skills and knowledge required include strong word processing skills, effective and pleasant communication style, experience with software applications such as Word and Excel, and demonstrated quality customer service skills. Two to three years of experience in a general office setting is required, including experience in a variety of work situations with direct contact with customers. Education required is a minimum of high school graduation. Application deadline is Jan. 19. Send cover letter and resume to Office of Human Resources, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; 800-323-8039 ext. 259;
  • The Nominating Committee of the Annual Conference Standing Committee met recently in Elgin, Ill., to structure the 2006 ballot for Annual Conference. Chair Bruce Hostetler of South/Central Indiana District extended appreciation to everyone in the denomination who allowed their names to be placed in nomination, and to the many people who submitted nominations. Other members of the committee are Kathryn Ludwick of West Marva District, Ron McAdams of Southern Ohio District, Sue Ellen Wheatley of Mid-Atlantic District, Don Fitzkee of Atlantic Northeast District, Mary Anne Whited of Middle Pennsylvania District, Larry Dentler of Southern Pennsylvania District, and Glenn Bollinger of Shenandoah District. The 2006 ballot will be announced in early March. For more information about the election process, contact Annual Conference executive director Lerry Fogle or Conference secretary Fred Swartz at the Annual Conference Office, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039.
  • Districts are sending representatives to a launch event for Gather ‘Round: Hearing and Sharing God’s Good News, Feb. 10-12 in Pittsburgh, Pa. The new Sunday school curriculum comes from Brethren Press and the Mennonite Publishing Network. Church of the Brethren districts are sending representatives to be trained in use of the curriculum in church school classes for all ages. Free samples sessions for different age groups are at, as well as more information about the curriculum including documents that show its theological and educational foundations. The curriculum is available in February for use beginning this fall. Sample kits will be available for $79.95 plus shipping and handling beginning in February, call Brethren Press at 800-441-3712.
  • The spring issue of “A Guide for Biblical Studies” has been released by Brethren Press. The theme for the Bible study series for March, April, and May is “Living in and as God’s Creation” focusing on passages from the Psalms, Job, Mark, Ecclesiastes, John, and Proverbs. The writer for the spring quarter is William Abshire, a professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Bridgewater (Va.) College. Frank Ramirez, pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, writes the “Out of Context” column. Order from Brethren Press for $2.90 each, $5.15 for large print, plus shipping and handling; call 800-441-3712.
  • A free five-minute DVD presenting a music-video style glimpse of the overall work of the Church of the Brethren General Board is available from Brethren videographer David Sollenberger. The video is suitable for use as an inspirational component during a morning worship service, or to share with a church board, ministry coordinating team, Sunday school class, or small group. “Bound Together” was used at Annual Conference 2005. Copies will be mailed free of charge. Please e-mail a request to or call 717-867-4187 or write to 1804 Horseshoe Pike, Annville, PA 17003.
  • Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) announces its 2006 winter orientation, Jan. 29-Feb. 17, at Camp Ithiel in Gotha, Fla. This will be the 268th BVS training unit, and will be made up of seven volunteers from across the US and Germany including several Church of the Brethren members. A weekend immersion with the Haitian Brethren community in Miami is planned, and while in the city the volunteers also will work at food banks and Habitat for Humanity. The group also will work at Camp Ithiel for a day. A BVS potluck is open to all those who are interested on Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Camp Ithiel. “Please feel free to come and welcome the new BVS volunteers and share your own experiences,” invited Becky Snavely, of the BVS office.”As always your prayer support is welcome and needed. Please pray for the unit, and the people they will touch during their year of service.” For more information contact the BVS office at 800-323-8039 ext. 423.
  • US Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona visited Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren on Jan. 9 while touring a clinic that is hosted by the congregation. The Mission of Mercy’s Mobile Medical Clinic provides free medical, dental, and prescription coverage to thousands of Frederick County residents each year, according to an article about the event in the “Frederick News-Post.” Frederick pastor Paul Mundey reported that the congregation has provided space for “a mobile medical clinic for the working poor” for some time. Carmona told the paper that what inspired him most was that “the only clearance to come here is a need. There’s no paperwork, there’s no qualification, and what’s dispensed here is not as much care as it is love and dignity for a fellow human being.” To find the newspaper article online go to
  • Trees for Life’s president, Balbir Mathur, will be featured in a radio interview Thursday, Jan. 19, that can be heard also on the Internet. The interview will be on WBEZ 91.5 FM Chicago Public Radio at 12 noon to 1 p.m. central time. Trees for Life is a nonprofit people-to-people movement that helps plant fruit trees in developing countries, based in Wichita, Kan. It was begun in 1984 with connections to the Church of the Brethren. It also is a Brethren Volunteer Service project site. To hear the broadcast live online go to, under “Listen Now” click the link for Live Webcast in RealAudio. The interview also will be available in the archives at (To listen to the interview online, Real Player must be installed on the computer, see For more information see, or contact Trees for Life, 3006 W. St. Louis, Wichita, KS 67203; 316-945-6929;
  • The Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center in Harrisonburg, Va., and the Valley Research Associates announce publication of Volume III of “Unionists and the Civil War Experience in the Shenandoah Valley” by Bittinger, Rodes, and Wenger. This third in a projected seven-volume history of the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia focuses on Rockingham County families in and around the towns of Bridgewater and Dayton and westward to the mountains. The series has been noted for adding new information about the effects of Gen. Sheridan’s campaign of burning and destruction carried out in Oct. 1864, said a release from the center. The volumes also add new information about the Underground Railroad created in the Shenandoah Valley, naming different escape routes across the western mountains and giving the names of pilots, guides, numerous “safe houses,” their locations, organizers of the routes, and volume of traffic. A total of 126 local families are included in the three volumes published to date. Each volume retails for $49.95 plus tax ($44.95 for each additional book) plus shipping. Order from Valley Research Associates, P.O. Box 526, Dayton, VA 22821;
  • Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) held a “Follow the Light” Epiphany fast in front of the White House on Jan. 6-8. The group had sent a letter to the Bush administration requesting a meeting with the president and his staff to share stories and words of wisdom about the US presence in Iraq, reported Todd Flory of the Brethren Witness/Washington Office. “The fast is kind of a spiritual under-girding for that request,” said Church of the Brethren and CPT member Cliff Kindy. “It’s to recognize the ways in which we’re all held captive by the war, whether we’re CPTers held captive by the Swords of Righteousness or soldiers held captive or Iraqis or even a president held captive by the idea of war and missing the realities of it.” Throughout the three days of fasting, many people stopped to chat with the CPT members while others gave their support or disapproval as they passed, Flory reported. “The people who stop have been positive,” said CPT member Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. “The people who aren’t so positive keep walking by.” President Bush did not grant CPT’s request for a visit.
  • By visiting, you can be part of the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on Feb. 14-23. The site also can be accessed via The assembly, which is held every eight years, will bring thousands of Christians from around the world together for ecumenical encounter, prayer, celebration, and deliberation. The website offers an overview of what will happen at the assembly including the theme, “God, in your grace, transform the world”; issues and concerns to be discussed; prayers and Bible studies; news and photos; stories of transformation from churches; and the program and preparation documents. During the assembly the site will provide news coverage as it happens, video summaries, live webcasts of plenaries, and an e-news service. Brethren who will attend the assembly include the Church of the Brethren delegate Jeffrey W. Carter, pastor of Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren; Annual Conference moderator Ronald Beachley and his wife, Linda; Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the General Board; Merv Keeney, executive director of Global Mission Partnerships for the General Board; Dale Brown, professor emeritus at Bethany Theological Seminary, attending as an observer; and Walt Wiltschek, editor of “Messenger” magazine, who will work with the WCC communications team.
5) Garrison retires as General Board’s director of Human Resources.

Mary Lou Garrison, director of Human Resources for the Church of the Brethren General Board, has announced her retirement effective July 28. She began in the position located in Elgin, Ill., on Oct. 15, 2001.

A Manchester College graduate, Garrison has served in Church of the Brethren organizations since 1982. Prior to her work with the General Board, she was employed by Pinecrest Community, a Brethren retirement and longterm care community in Mount Morris, Ill., as director of Human Resources since 1988. She began at Pinecrest as a geriatric social worker and then transitioned to director of Programming, while developing the first Alzheimer unit at the facility. Garrison achieved lifetime certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources in 1994.

In retirement, Garrison will join her husband, Ed, as he retires from a career in education this June. Both plan to explore opportunities that will utilize their non-professional skills and interests, including spending more time with their grandsons in Peace Valley, Mo.

6) Daniel begins as administrative executive for Idaho District.

Sue Daniel began Jan. 1 as half-time administrative executive of the Idaho District of the Church of the Brethren.

Daniel is a graduate of the University of La Verne, a Church of the Brethren related college in La Verne, Calif., and recently retired as off-campus center director of Eastern Oregon University. She has been actively involved in the Church of the Brethren, having served as district moderator and in other district and congregational positions.

Daniel will work from an office in her home; contact her at 1816 First Avenue S., Payette, ID 83661; 208-642-1577;

7) Berster named president of Peter Becker Community.

Carol A. Berster of Hollidaysburg, Pa., has been named president of Peter Becker Community in Harleysville, Pa. She will begin Feb. 20. The Church of the Brethren retirement community has been served by an interim president since Oct. 2005, when Rod Mason resigned after serving as CEO for 19 years.

Berster most recently served as a regional CEO for PHI, Inc., a Presbyterian system with 19 senior communities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. She has been in the senior services field since 1976. According to Peter Becker board president Don Price, “Berster was selected for her passion to serve the senior adult community as well as for her strengths in finance and business.”

This year, Peter Becker Community is celebrating 35 years of service to senior adults through easy living cottages and apartments, an assisted living unit, and a healthcare center. For more information about the community go to

8) University of La Verne group spends Thanksgiving in the Gulf.
by Debbie Roberts and Steve Kinzie

Six University of La Verne (ULV) students and four university staff members traveled to the Lake Charles area of Louisiana over the Thanksgiving break to help clean up debris and destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Rita. ULV is a Church of the Brethren school in La Verne, Calif.

Although it had been more than six weeks since the hurricane hit, communities were still struggling to recover from extensive damage. Much of the destruction inland resulted from uprooted trees falling into houses and buildings. In Cameron Parish, a tremendous storm surge did enormous damage to lakefront homes, killed animals, and pushed furniture, house siding, appliances, and large boats hundreds of feet onto the land.

We worked at a number of different sites. The first day we spent raking debris and recycling boards from a jumbled dock. After sharing in a wonderful Thanksgiving meal hosted by Lake Charles Community Church of the Brethren, on Friday we spent the morning cleaning up dozens of fallen trees in the acre behind an inland home. That afternoon we cleared debris from around the much damaged home of an elderly woman resident in Lake Charles. The last day, we cleared a massive tangle of fallen trees at the small home of a disabled couple. Their poverty and need was tremendous, and we were very touched by their suffering and graciousness.

This mixture of suffering and graciousness, in fact, met us at every turn. Even when people had very little to share they were generous with their food, smiles, and thanks. All of us returned sobered by the reality of the continuing hardships faced by the wonderful people we were blessed to meet and work with for even so short a time.

Many thanks to La Verne Church of the Brethren, ULV, and the wider La Verne community for their financial support in helping to make this experience possible.

–Debbie Roberts serves as campus minister and director of Peace Studies at the University of La Verne. Her husband, Steve Kinzie, is assistant director of the university’s Learning Enhancement Center and an adjunct professor.

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board, on every other Wednesday with other editions as needed. J. Allen Brubaker, Todd Flory, Mary Lou Garrison, Del Keeney, Nancy Knepper, Jon Kobel, Howard Royer, Becky Snavely, Fred Swartz, and Jane Yount contributed to this report. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To receive Newsline by e-mail or to unsubscribe, write or call 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Newsline is available and archived at, click on “News.” For more news and features, subscribe to Messenger magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.


[gt-link lang="en" label="English" widget_look="flags_name"]