Newsline for September 13, 2006

“The heavens are telling the glory of God….” — Psalm 19:1a


1) Council reviews 2006 Annual Conference, elects Beachley as chair.
2) Disaster staff reflect on Hurricane Katrina, one year later.
3) Brethren Volunteer Service unit begins service.
4) Michigan District Conference focuses on new mission opportunities.
5) Brethren bits: Personnel, jobs, Caring Ministries Assembly, and more.


6) Del Keeney resigns from General Board’s Congregational Life Ministries.
7) Jay Wittmeyer to join Brethren Benefit Trust as publications manager.


8) World Mission Offering invites, ‘Come walk with us.’
9) Registration begins for 2007 Cross Cultural Consultation.


10) Remember the peacemakers.

For more Church of the Brethren news, go to www.brethren.org, click on “News” to find a news feature, more “Brethren bits,” links to Brethren in the news, and links to the General Board’s photo albums and the Newsline archive.

1) Council reviews 2006 Annual Conference, elects Beachley as chair.

The Annual Conference Council elected Ron Beachley, immediate past moderator of Annual Conference, to chair the council for the 2006-07 year. Beachley presided over the council’s meeting Aug. 16-17 at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., according to a report from Conference secretary Fred Swartz.

A major portion of meeting time was spent reviewing business actions of the 2006 Annual Conference held in Des Moines, Iowa, in July, and identifying agencies or people for follow up of decisions. The council also heard a report from the Conference secretary on a communication requesting the five Annual Conference agencies to name representatives to the Program Feasibility Study Committee–the group that will study the “Doing Church Business” recommendations to the 2006 Conference.

In other business, the council studied a report from the Annual Conference marketing ministry team advising the group to look at systemic issues that affect Conference attendance including diminishing and aging membership; increase in bi-vocational congregational leadership; growing numbers of pastors with little interest in keeping congregations connected with the denomination; and threatening divisions in the denomination.

In a related matter, the council addressed its Conference-assigned responsibility to collaborate in envisioning for the denomination with the Standing Committee of district delegates. Council members identified several “broad strokes of vision” for the church including developing missions and mission leaders, including overseas mission, congregational renewal, and new church development; calling vital and loyal Brethren leadership; calling and growing disciples; and nurturing vital worship. These ideas have been conveyed to the envisioning subcommittee of Standing Committee, with the intention that both the subcommittee and the council will work at developing strategies, Swartz reported.

The council expressed appreciation to executive director Lerry Fogle and the Annual Conference Office assistants for the achievement of many goals in the Conference’s strategic plan. The group reviewed the mission, vision, and core values of the Conference and reaffirmed their validity.

Funding streams for Annual Conference demanded considerable discussion time for the council, as registrations for the 2006 Conference fell considerably below the projected mark, Swartz said. There were more than 100 fewer delegates in 2006 than were hoped for, he said. One of the principal means of support for Annual Conference comes from delegate registration fees. Appreciation was expressed for Conference offerings that amounted to $47,440 this year.

The council received a report on the move of the Annual Conference Office to the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., which was completed on schedule Aug. 28.

The council will meet next on Nov. 28-29 at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.


2) Disaster staff reflect on Hurricane Katrina, one year later.

Church of the Brethren Disaster Response continues to rebuild and repair homes on the Gulf coast following the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina a year ago. Aug. 29 marked the first anniversary of Katrina’s heartrending devastation.

Although the storm made landfall in southeastern Louisiana, heavy damage can be found within a 100-mile radius of the storm’s center in Mississippi and Alabama, as well as in Louisiana, reports Brethren Disaster Response, a program of the Church of the Brethren General Board. “The official death toll attributed to Katrina has climbed to 1,836, making Katrina the deadliest hurricane since 1928,” said Jane Yount, Brethren Disaster Response coordinator, in a Sept. 1 update. “Katrina is also by far the costliest hurricane in US history, with $75 billion in damages. An estimated 350,000 homes were destroyed and many thousands more damaged.”

“With the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina behind us, we are thankful for all the volunteers who have followed Jesus’ call to be His hands and His feet,” said Zach Wolgemuth, associate director of Emergency Response. “As we head into the second year since one of our nation’s worst natural disasters, communities and longterm recovery organizations are organizing and beginning the process of rebuilding. The demand for the services provided by Church of the Brethren Disaster Response is great,” he added.

Brethren Disaster Response is in the process of opening a new project site in Louisiana, and likely will open another site on the Gulf coast this winter, staff report. This is in addition to the current project site in Mississippi and one in Pensacola, Fla., following Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Dennis in 2005.

The new site in St. Tammany Parish, La., is scheduled to open Oct. 15. St. Tammany Parish is northeast of New Orleans on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. “As a result of the rainfall and storm surge, the level of Lake Pontchartrain rose and caused significant flooding along its northeastern shore, affecting the town of Slidell and surrounding communities,” Yount reported. Brethren Disaster Response has been in conversation with the longterm recovery committee in St. Tammany Parish–Northshore Recovery, Inc.–and the group is eager for assistance, Yount said. Work will include all types of major repairs to homes that have incurred flood and wind damage, along with some debris clean up and demolition.

Preparations are underway for two Brethren Disaster Response trainings for volunteer leadership this fall. Twenty-five people have responded to the invitation to attend hands-on, two-week trainings at Pensacola on Oct. 1-14 and at Lucedale on Oct. 22-Nov. 4. Participants will learn all aspects of managing a disaster response project including construction, safety, volunteer management, hospitality, and cooking; trainees will be prepared to take the roles of disaster project director, disaster project assistant, or household manager. For more information go to www.brethren.org/genbd/ersm.


3) Brethren Volunteer Service unit begins service.

The 21 members of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) Unit 270 have begun their terms of service. The Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., hosted the orientation unit from July 30-Aug. 18. The volunteers, home congregations or hometowns, and placements follow:

Phil Bohannon of Lampeter (Pa.) Church of the Brethren to Camp Alexander Mack in Milford, Ind. Nathan Fishman of New Brunswick, N.J., to Jubilee USA Network in Washington, D.C. Reike Flesch of Recklinghause, Germany, to Step 2 in Reno, Nev. Paula Hoffert of Lewiston (Minn.) Church of the Brethren to Boys Hope Girls Hope in Lenexa, Kan. Hanae Ikehata of Alzey, Germany, to Su Casa Catholic Worker House in Chicago, Ill. Anand Lehmann of Eppelheim, Germany, to Tri-City Homeless Coalition in Fremont, Calif. Lawreen McBride of Washington, D.C., not currently taking an assignment. Meredith Morckel of Springfield Church of the Brethren in Akron, Ohio, to Tri-City Homeless Coalition. Stan Morris of Sacramento, Calif., to AHEAD Energy Project in Rochester, N.Y. Will Morris of Charlottesville (Va.) Church of the Brethren to the Brethren Nutrition Program in Washington, D.C. Trevor Myers of Oakland Church of the Brethren in Bradford, Ohio, to Emergency Response/Service Ministries of the Church of the Brethren General Board. Emily O’Donnell of Green Tree Church of the Brethren in Oaks, Pa., to the Brethren Witness/Washington Office in Washington, D.C. Katie O’Donnell, also of Green Tree, to the Church of the Brethren in Brazil. Joe Parkinson of Collinsville, Ill., to San Antonio (Texas) Catholic Worker House. Benedikt Reinke of Ahnatal, Germany, to Lancaster (Pa.) Area Habitat for Humanity. Britta Schwab of Faith Community of the Brethren Home Church of the Brethren in New Oxford, Pa., to Gould Farm in Monterey, Mass. Tim Stauffer of Polo (Ill.) Church of the Brethren to Information Services of the General Board in Elgin, Ill. Barbara Tello of Minneapolis, Minn., to Chiapas Peace House in Chiapas, Mexico. Amy Waldron of Bloomington, Ind., exploring an assignment in Nigeria with Global Mission Partnerships of the Church of the Brethren General Board, to an interim assignment at Camp Courageous in Monticello, Iowa. Rachael Weber of Mountain View Church of the Brethren in McGaheysville, Va., to the World Student Christian Federation in Budapest, Hungary. Leah Yingling of Clover Creek Church of the Brethren in Fredericksburg, Pa., to Emanuel Children’s Home in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

For more information about BVS call the office at 800-323-8039, or visit http://www.brethrenvolunteerservice.org/.


4) Michigan District Conference focuses on new mission opportunities.

Michigan District Conference on Aug. 10-13 was led by moderator Mary Gault on the theme, “Where There Is Love” (Romans 13:8-10). About 220 people registered for all or part of the conference in Hastings, Mich., reported district executive minister Marie Willoughby. In business sessions, some 70 delegates attended representing all 20 congregations in the district.

The conference opened with love feast, and Stephen Breck Reid, academic dean of Bethany Theological Seminary, was the speaker for worship throughout the rest of the weekend. The youth used the experience of National Youth Conference to lead an evening worship. The conference also included a concert by “Middletree,” a group from New Life Christian Fellowship Church of the Brethren in Mount Pleasant, Mich.

Excitement centered on two new mission opportunities, Willoughby reported. “In January 2007 the New Life Christian Fellowship is opening a new church plant in the Saginaw Valley area, and invited everyone to become prayer partners in this vision and venture,” she said. The district board gave New Life permission to contact district congregations for further support.

In a second venture at the urging of the Commission of Stewards, “a plan is beginning to see how the district can arrange for the New Harvest Christian Center, a Church of God in Christ, to more reasonably purchase the former Battle Creek building in which they are currently worshiping,” Willoughby said. New Harvest pastor Ivan Lee made a personal visit to the conference, which discussed considering it a “mission” to find ways to assist the young congregation. No action was taken on the matter by the conference. New Harvest Christian Center has an average attendance of over 100, growing from just a handful a few months ago; 60 percent of attendees are children.

Delegates also approved a 2007 district budget of $89,750 and a camp budget of $71,650. A query on “Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect” was approved and will be passed on to Standing Committee, a committee of district delegates to the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.

Insight sessions included one concerning the query, one led by the district’s Multicultural Task Force, and an experience of the denominational study process “Together: Conversations on Being the Church.”

Debbie Eisenbise, pastor at Skyridge Church of the Brethren in Kalamazoo, Mich., was chosen as moderator-elect. Lee Hannahs of Beaverton, Mich., was installed as moderator for 2007. Five new members were elected to the District Board including Mary Gault as chair. Frances Townsend, pastor of Onekama (Mich.) Church of the Brethren, was chosen as district representative to the General Board for 2007-2012.

Guests included Annual Conference moderator Belita Mitchell and her husband, Don Mitchell, who directed an impromptu choir during the Saturday evening Hymn Sing.

5) Brethren bits: Personnel, jobs, Caring Ministries Assembly, and more.
  • Robert Raker, Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) worker and mission staff with the General Board’s Global Mission Partnerships, completes two years of service in the Dominican Republic this month. He is a member of Greencastle (Pa.) Church of the Brethren and has been teaching English as a second language in the DR.
  • Several programs of the Church of the Brethren General Board are welcoming new fulltime volunteers through BVS. Todd Flory began Sept. 11 as assistant to the director of BVS; he is a member of McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren and recently completed a year of volunteer service at the Brethren Witness/Washington Office. Hannah Kliewer begins Sept. 18 as orientation assistant for BVS; she has completed a year of service at the Center on Conscience and War in Washington, D.C. Trevor Myers began with Brethren Disaster Response on Aug. 18; he is a member of Oakland Church of the Brethren in Bradford, Ohio, and will be assigned to a repair and rebuilding site in Pensacola, Fla. Emily O’Donnell has begun at the Brethren Witness/Washington Office as a legislative associate; she is a member of Green Tree Church of the Brethren in Oaks, Pa. Amy Rhodes has begun with the Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office as an assistant workcamp coordinator; she is from Roanoke, Va. Monica Rice began Sept. 11 as recruiter for BVS; she is a member of Springfield Church of the Brethren in Akron, Ohio, and recently completed a year with the Youth and Young Adult Office. In addition, Sue Snyder began Sept. 11 as a part-time program volunteer with BVS; she is a former General Board staff member who has served seven years in BVS at St. Mary’s Westside Food Bank in Surprise, Ariz.
  • The National Council of Churches is publicizing two job openings: an associate general secretary for Administration and Finance; and a communication officer for its Washington Office. The associate general secretary provides executive leadership as the Chief Financial Officer for financial and business management; qualifications include, among many others, 10 years of experience as a financial administrator in a nonprofit agency, comprehensive understanding of administrative and financial operations, and experience in a denominational office or local or regional council of churches; location in New York. The communications position is in the joint Washington office of the NCC and Church World Service, and requires a generalist in the fields of journalism and public relations to provide general communication support to the NCC office in Washington and, as assigned, to other NCC departments and the Washington offices of member communions; qualifications include a college degree in journalism, public relations, marketing, or communication-related field with seminary training a plus, five years of experience in the field of media relations, journalism, radio or television broadcast production, or related field. Position descriptions and full details for applicants are at www.ncccusa.org/jobs/jobshome.html.
  • An executive director for the Indianapolis Peace House is sought to lead the consortial “study away” program operated by Manchester, Earlham, and Goshen Colleges in Indiana, beginning no later than Nov. 15. Peace House students engage in cooperative living, academic coursework, and internships in urban organizations, with a focus on peacemaking and social justice. This is the fourth year of a five-year program funded by the Lilly Endowment. The executive director is responsible for overseeing the house and developing a comprehensive plan for moving it toward sustainable independence after grant support ends in June 2008. Qualifications include commitment to peace and justice coupled with relevant knowledge and experience; history of success in strategic and consultative leadership and effective administration; background and skills in recruitment, advancement, marketing, public relations; entrepreneurial acumen and organizational abilities for program assessment; record of effective interaction with young adults; human relations skills; successful record of budget and facilities management; communication skills; self-motivation and goal orientation. An appreciation of the historic peace churches and of developmental theory as related to college students enhances candidate strength. Working understanding of nonprofit sector internships, college and university academic systems, and college study-away programs is desired. Experience in teaching and curriculum development is a plus. Respect for personal and institutional diversities is expected. A collaborative problem-solver is needed for this position. A doctorate or master’s degree in a related field is preferred. Review of applications begins Sept. 15. Send applications to Dr. Nelson E. Bingham, Special Assistant to the President, Drawer #55, Earlham College, Richmond, IN 47374-4095. Equal Opportunity Employer. For more information go to www.plowsharesproject.org/php/peacehouse/index.php.
  • BVS holds its fall orientation unit from Sept. 24-Oct. 13 at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. This will be the 272nd unit for BVS, and will be made up of 19 volunteers from across the US and Germany. A majority are members of the Church of the Brethren. A potluck with the unit is open to all those who are interested on Sept. 30, at 6:30 p.m. at Union Bridge (Md.) Church of the Brethren. For more information call 800-323-8039 ext. 423.
  • The Ministry of Reconciliation (MOR) of On Earth Peace, and Mid Atlantic District are co-sponsoring a training for Shalom Team members featuring design of reconciliation processes and group facilitation. This training will introduce Shalom Team members to congregational conflict intervention and provide solid tools for consultation. All eastern districts are invited to participate. The event takes place Nov. 17-18 in New Windsor, Md. Leadership is provided by Bob Gross, co-director of On Earth Peace. Cost is $50 for each Shalom Team member or $100 for an entire team. Continuing education credit is available through the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership. Registration deadline is Oct. 20. To register or for more information, contact Annie Clark, MOR coordinator, at annieclark@mchsi.com.
  • Several district conferences are held this weekend: Northern Indiana meets at Camp Alexander Mack; South/Central Indiana at Salamonie Church of the Brethren in Warren, Ind.; Missouri-Arkansas at Camp Windermere in Roach, Mo.; Southern Pennsylvania at New Fairview Church of the Brethren in York, Pa.; and West Marva at Moorefield (W.Va.) Church of the Brethren.
  • The annual Brethren Disaster Relief Auction in Lebanon, Pa., marks its 30th anniversary this year. Events are held at the Lebanon County Fairgrounds Sept. 22-24. The auction sponsored jointly by Atlantic Northeast District and Southern Pennsylvania District is the largest of the Brethren disaster auctions. Duane Ness chairs the board of directors. A portion of the funds raised benefits the Emergency Disaster Fund of the Church of the Brethren General Board. This year, attendees will be challenged to the goal of assembling 30,000 Gift of the Heart Health Kits. Events begin 9 a.m. Friday, Sept. 22, with baked goods stands and a farmer’s market–with lots of other food available throughout the weekend. Auctions include a heifer auction, a livestock auction, a pole barn auction, a quilt auction, and general auctions. Gift of the Heart kit building begins at 8 a.m. Saturday. A hymn sing and orchestra closes the weekend at 5:30 p.m. Sunday. For a detailed schedule go to http://www.brethrenauction.org/.
  • “Springs of Living Water!” a church renewal breakfast, will be held at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren on Saturday, Sept. 30, from 8-11:45 a.m. The event will include leadership training for church renewal, biblical inspiration, and testimonies of churches in renewal. “In ‘Springs of Living Water!’ a church enters a spiritual journey and is trained in servant leadership to be a healthy church with an urgent, Christ-centered mission,” explained leader David Young. Child care will be provided. RSVP by Sept. 23 to davidyoung@churchrenewalservant.org or 717-738-1887. For more information go to http://www.churchrenewalservant.org/.
  • Peggy Gish, a Church of the Brethren member who has been working in Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams, will speak at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., on Sept. 16, at 7:30 p.m. Childcare will be provided; the children will make peace pinwheels to place on the church lawn as a witness on the International Day of Prayer for Peace Sept. 21.
  • Camp Harmony in Hooversville, Pa., is holding its 24th Annual Brethren Heritage Festival on Sept. 16, from 10 a.m.-5p.m. The event is co-sponsored by Western Pennsylvania District. Meals, booths, entertainment, Lizzie’s Attic and Jacob’s Shed sales of collectibles and antiques, a quilt auction and basket auction, pastor’s bake off, pie eating contest, farmer’s market, and children’s activities will be offered. For more go to www.campharmony.org/brethren_heritage/index.html.
  • *Bridgewater (Va.) College’s Constitution Day celebration features a presentation by Donald B. Kraybill, nationally recognized expert on Anabaptist groups, on “Cultural Clash: Amish Conflicts with the State,” at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 18 in Cole Hall. Paul Grout, moderator of the 2001 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, will speak for the college’s Fall Spiritual Focus on Sept. 26. During the 9:30 a.m. convocation, Grout will speak on “Jesus as Warrior,” and at 7:30 p.m. his topic will be “Jesus as Mystic Monk.” For more go to http://www.bridgewater.edu/.
  • Ending hunger is the topic of a National Council of Churches (NCC) television documentary, “Hunger No More: Faces Behind the Facts.” The one-hour special was made available to NBC television network affiliates beginning Sept. 10. The documentary approaches hunger from the perspective of faith, declaring that it is more than a social issue. Howard Royer, manager of the Global Food Crisis Fund for the Church of the Brethren General Board, noted that the program may be a good resource for World Food Day on Oct. 16. A study guide is available at www.councilofchurches.org/hunger.
  • Church leaders from Sudan have issued a statement listing current priorities for their country, including the merger of the two councils of churches–the Sudan Council of Churches in the north and the New Sudan Council of Churches in the south. The Church of the Brethren has worked with both councils. The statement affirmed the peace agreement reached between the government of Sudan and southern rebel groups in Jan. 2005, and the Darfur peace process under the African Union, but also noted isolation of churches in the implementation of the peace agreement, expressed concern about escalation of fighting in Darfur and eastern Sudan and the internally displaced refugees, and called for acceptance of a United Nations peacekeeping force in Darfur. “We the Sudanese Heads of Churches commit our churches to fully support the unity of the people of Sudan and to walk together as one ecumenical family. We urge our partners/donors and the rest of the global ecumenical family to continue accompanying us in the task of rebuilding Sudan,” the statement said. The church leaders made the statement during a meeting in Kenya Aug. 17-19 under the auspices of the All Africa Conference of Churches and the World Council of Churches.


6) Del Keeney resigns from General Board’s Congregational Life Ministries.

Del Keeney, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries for the Church of the Brethren General Board, has announced his resignation effective Dec. 31. He has accepted a call to pastor Mechanicsburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, where he will begin on Jan. 1, 2007.

Keeney began working with the board in Jan. 2004. Through the Congregational Life Ministries position, he served on the board’s Leadership Team and served the denomination in the care and support of its congregations. During his time with the board, he worked both from the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and from his home in Pennsylvania.

With more than 20 years of pastoral ministry experience, Keeney has served in both longterm ministries and in intentional interim positions. His return to this work continues his commitment to the health and vitality of Brethren congregations. He also has been a trainer in The Creative Church Leader Program and holds a variety of certifications pertaining to the development of church leadership. He has taught and co-taught academy-level classes for Bethany Theological Seminary and the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center, and holds degrees from the seminary and from Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind.


7) Jay Wittmeyer to join Brethren Benefit Trust as publications manager.

Jay Wittmeyer begins Oct. 30 as manager of publications for Brethren Benefit Trust. In this role, he will have daily oversight of BBT’s printed materials such as newsletters, press releases, and website; will serve on the Communications Team helping to create new marketing materials and plan communications initiatives; and will be one of BBT’s senior writers and editors.

Since 2004, Wittmeyer has served as assistant director of Lombard (Ill.) Mennonite Peace Center. From 1996-99, he worked for Mennonite Central Committee in Bangladesh as a community development officer. From 2000-04, he again served the MCC in Nepal as project director of a community health project, and as organization development facilitator at a hospital. He also has taught adult education and English as a second language.

Wittmeyer holds a bachelor’s degree in English education and master’s degrees in teaching English as a second language and conflict transformation. He currently is enrolled in the Church of the Brethren’s Training in Ministry program. He and his family live in Elgin and are members of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren.


8) World Mission Offering invites, ‘Come walk with us.’

The 2006 World Mission Offering emphasis for the Church of the Brethren General Board invites congregations and church members to “Come walk with us in mission.” The offering is designed to foster and deepen ties between Brethren mission workers and congregations. The suggested date for World Mission Sunday is Oct. 8, but materials are not tied to the date.

“Our gifts to mission work are an amazing way for us to ‘walk the talk,’” said Carol Bowman, the board’s stewardship development counselor. “This is the full circle of faithfulness: discipleship, stewardship, and evangelism.”

Free resources include a new world map showing Brethren global connections, a bulletin insert, offering envelope, and worship resources in English and Spanish. To access resources, including background slides to use in a power point or other media presentation, go to www.brethren.org/genbd/funding/opportun/WorldMission.htm. For more information and additional resources about Church of the Brethren missions, call 800-323-8039 ext. 227.


9) Registration begins for 2007 Cross Cultural Consultation.

Registration has opened for the Church of the Brethren’s next Cross Cultural Consultation and Celebration, to be held April 19-22, 2007, at the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center. Registrations are due Dec. 1. Registration materials are available in English and Spanish at www.brethren.org, click on key word “Cross Cultural Ministries.”

“Because this event will be held at a conference center for the first time, there will be some differences from previous years, including our housing and meal arrangements,” reported Duane Grady, staff for the event and a Congregational Life Team member for the Church of the Brethren General Board.

Meals will be served by the conference center; cost per meal will range from $7 to $11. Options for housing include lodging on campus for a fee ranging from $43.50 to $65.50 per person per night. In addition, there will be an option of staying in homes, with hosts asked to provide breakfast and transportation each day to the conference center.

Other changes based on evaluations from the 2006 consultation include more time for small group discussion and Bible studies. Said Grady, “We are also excited that the On Earth Peace Board will be meeting in New Windsor during our gathering and they will be joining us for parts of our event.”


10) Remember the peacemakers.
By David Whitten

I was feeling rather full after leaving Rev. Anthony Ndumsai’s home in Jos, Nigeria. I had been invited to a meal with the family of seven. Ndumsai has not received a salary in four months. That didn’t stop him from inviting me as their guest for supper. From the looks of things in the pot, I knew they went to the market to purchase meat and spaghetti to prepare as fine a meal as was possible under the circumstances. Nigerians are a gracious people. It is humbling to be on the receiving end of such hospitality.

During our meal together, he told me a story that I want to share with you.

Just days before our own tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, interreligious violence erupted in this otherwise peaceful city. More than 2,000 people were bludgeoned, hacked, and burned to death. Tensions ran high between Christians and Muslims.

After the initial eruption of violence, there came a quiet that lay over the city. A Muslim man and his two sons had been holed up in their home, fearful to venture out. They ran out of food. The father told his two sons, ages 13 and 11, to go to their farm and bring back some corn to eat.

The farm lay adjacent to the Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN). While the boys were out on their farm, they were spotted by a Christian driving by. The man drove to TCNN and told the Christian theological students that these two boys were spies sent out to find a way to attack the students.

Many of the students armed with machetes and sticks rushed out and threw the two small boys to the ground, stripped them of their clothes, and began to beat them. The man who had the car left, returning with a can of gasoline and matches. He encouraged the students to burn these children to ashes in retaliation for the many Christians who had lost their lives at the hands of Muslims.

Several students who were members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa Nigeria (EYN-the Church of Brethren in Nigeria), including Ndumsai, ran out to see the horror unfolding. They stood between the other Christian students and the two small Muslim boys. The Brethren students refused to let the others act out their plan for vengeance.

After much heated debate, the flames of retaliation cooled and soon only the EYN students remained with the two Muslim boys. The boys filled their sacks with corn and returned home to where their anxious father waited.

Ndumsai did not tell me this story out of pride for a deed well done. He told me the story because of the epiphany he experienced during the incident. He became convinced of the power of nonviolence, confirming for him that the teachings of Jesus about peace were meant to be practiced. He turned to embrace the faith and practices of the Church of the Brethren on pacifism.

Rev. Ndumsai is currently in seminary, finishing his master’s degree. His thesis is on the theology of pacifism as interpreted by the Church of the Brethren.

After returning home from the Ndumsai home, I had a lot to digest. There are many stories of Muslims saving Christians, and Christians saving Muslims, during the crisis in Jos on Sept. 7, 2001. It is time to hear at least one of these stories.

–David Whitten is Nigeria mission coordinator for the Church of the Brethren General Board.


To receive Newsline by e-mail or to unsubscribe, go to http://listserver.emountain.net/mailman/listinfo/newsline. Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Contact the editor at cobnews@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with the next regularly scheduled Newsline set for Sept. 13; other special issues may be sent as needed. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Newsline is available and archived at www.brethren.org, click on “News.” For more Church of the Brethren news and features, go to www.brethren.org and click on “News,” or subscribe to Messenger magazine, call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.


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